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THE REJECTED BECOME THE CHOSEN: SEPARATIST PILGRIM PIONEERS AND THE JOURNEY TO AMERICA

       

      In the 1590s English Separatists and dissenters were finding life in England ever more difficult. Several were sentenced to hanging in an enhanced effort to kill off the movement toward spiritual liberty.

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         Laws were passed that made exile to the European continent the punishment and death if one ever returned. England would thus stop at nothing to rid itself of unwavering Christian reformers. There was no going back for those who had gone so far with God. Queen Elizabeth was determined to wipe them out and the level of her persecution continued until her death in 1603. She had no heirs and her passing thus ended the generational line of the ultra-dysfunctional Tudor monarchs.

         The new king was James Stuart I (1566-1625), the then present king of Scotland under the name of James VI. He had ascended the Scottish throne at a mere thirteen months of age in 1567 when his mother, Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587), had abdicated. As “King of Great Britain” James I united England, Scotland, and Ireland under his leadership. Though his mother was a loyal Catholic, James was raised as a member of the Protestant Church of Scotland. The developing church was attempting to continue the reform movement began a decade earlier by essentially removing all things Catholic, but James obviously felt more comfortable with those men manning church offices whose ecclesiastical nature lent them to monarchial rule.

         Of course, that’s what bishops and ruling prelates are by nature and why such offices were created. The Presbyterians were setting up a national polity in which churches would be administered by the Biblical model of elders and overseers, which simply does not mix with monarchy any more than does oil and water. The comfort level for kings had always involved close trusted ones, be they civil or clergy, and James was thus not prepared to get on board with the movement toward spiritual truth. In becoming king of England he had quickly embraced an anti-Puritan sentiment, which gives one an idea of his treatment of Separatists and other dissenters who continued pushing for reform and refused to conform to non-Biblical tenets. The Puritans still maintained membership in the Church of England and had consequently escaped the larger wrath of Elizabeth, but the heat began rising. Yet, regardless of the new king’s negative attitude toward them, it was their own compromise and apprehensive middle-ground approach that relegated them as unfit for the spiritual frontier. They were not of a mind nor possessed the strength of purpose to be used of God in the necessary major way as those Separatists who had given their all. The Puritans as a group had remained far too connected. They were unqualified as pioneers.

         After Elizabeth’s reign of terror, it seemed there remained only one Separatist church community in all of England. Located in the hamlet of Gainsborough, most of its members had fled to Holland two years later. There remained a few holdouts of this group in the town of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, and it is here the story gets interesting. In Scrooby there lived a man who became postmaster there in 1590. He had attended Cambridge in his youth and later became greatly interested in the new Christian reformation movements. By the early 1600s he had taken under his wing a young man from Austerfield while ministering in the Scrooby area as a reforming Puritan when persecution raised its head once again. A group of perhaps 50 were meeting secretly at Scrooby Manor, having managed to cobble together a small community from the remains at Gainsborough, when the decision was made in 1607 to break ranks completely with the Church of England and establish themselves as Separatists. Thence began the great adventure.

         The two men were the postmaster William Brewster (c.1566-1644), who would become a leading Elder at Plymouth Colony, and his young protégé William Bradford (1590-1657), the future Governor thereof. These two were undoubtedly placed together by Providence. Bradford’s father died when he was only a year old and his mother when he was seven. The orphan was forced to live with several relatives in the interim. He met Brewster at the meetings of the Puritan Richard Clifton when only a young man of about twelve and at last found an appropriate father-figure. From this he received a better upbringing and someone to direct his already keen interest in the Reformation movement.

         The restrictive spiritual atmosphere in England was such that the young congregation decided they must leave the mother country and sail across the channel to Holland to live according to their convictions. Yet, as another indication of the severe trials and fight to come their way, they were robbed of all their possessions by the officers of the ship they hired and imprisoned for attempting to leave England illegally. They remained undeterred, however, and were able to make their getaway the next year, finding peace and religious toleration in The Netherlands. After a year in Amsterdam amid the bickering of two other congregations, they moved to the city of Leiden, approximately 100 strong, and settled into a peaceable and productive life.

         One can see by the trials they faced and tests they passed that God was preparing them for a much greater mission. Others had disqualified themselves for one reason or another, be it a lack of faith, selfish attitudes, inability to work together, or loyal connections to the state church, which prohibited a lack of complete loyalty to God. Those connected, as the Puritans, had not considered their inevitable betrayal through their association with ecclesiastical authority and the throne or the temptation of looking back. We see the same thing in the ancient history of the Jews when God had to remove all Egyptian influence and fleshly nature from His people through their wanderings in the Sinai desert. These Separatist future founders of the American Plymouth Colony had proved their loyalty to God by both their obedience to Him regardless of greatly challenging circumstances, and also their complete separation from the world.

         In Leiden, Brewster began publishing books for sale in England and was soon under arrest by English authorities in 1619, who had accused him of the same crime as William Tyndale—printing up non-official religious works that did not toe the mark of the accepted Anglican confession. The Dutch government agreed with England in a political move and confiscated the printing equipment. Brewster was able to escape to England and hide out. It was during this time that plans were made to make the most radical move of all—securing a land patent from the London Virginia Company.

        The community as a whole had become very concerned after ten years of relative comfort and security in Leiden that their children, if allowed to grow up and become established there, would lose both their English heritage and Christian beliefs. The Netherlands was a free pluralistic nation by comparison to England, but the resultant freedom also gave place to a more open mindset regarding moral values and sin. It occurred to the group that the time had come yet again when they must move on if they would maintain their walk with God. Their willingness to suffer so many trials for the sake of the real Gospel had undoubtedly impressed the Lord. Due to their relentless attitude toward holy living and walking in God’s new light, rather than fighting against the movement or holding back like almost every other group, they had become the chosen ones to take not only the Gospel to America, but a community form much closer to Scriptural intent.

       The 180 ton Dutch cargo vessel Mayflower was hired in London and sailed to Southampton on the southern coast of England in late July of 1620. Most of the Pilgrim community remained in Leiden, Holland and bought a small ship called the Speedwell to take them to Southampton, from which both ships would sail across the Atlantic to Virginia. The second ship proved unworthy of the journey, however, having leaked on the trip across the English Channel, and after repairs, began leaking again at the start of the great voyage. Stopping at Dartmouth, repairs were made a second time. On their second attempt at the Atlantic crossing, as they reached the open ocean after having traveled roughly 300 miles, the Speedwell continued leaking once again and the Pilgrims were forced to return to England. Many of the passengers had become so tired and frustrated they decided to stay home. Here was yet another test of heart and a further winnowing of the passenger list, from about 120 to 102. Of these, approximately 40-45% were members of the Leiden congregation.

         They decided to scuttle the second ship entirely and transfer all their goods and supplies to the Mayflower, making for very cramped quarters and a much less comfortable trip. After losing about forty days, the Mayflower finally set sail from Plymouth, England on September 16 (Gregorian calendar). The second half of the ocean voyage was very rough, having hit the severe northern Atlantic storm season, and piled yet more discomfort and trepidation upon the passengers. Imagine the battle these Pilgrims had with doubt and second thoughts, crammed together in a freezing ship tossed forth like a cork on the frigid seas.

         After 66 long days, the sturdy ship arrived intact off the coast of America around November 21, 1620. During the long and fitful journey there was one death but also one birth. The colonists’ destination was the mouth of the Hudson River, part of Virginia at the time, but the captain first sighted land off the coast of Cape Cod. In the attempt to go south the elements were again against them, almost causing shipwreck. As if by divine hand they returned to Cape Cod and dropped anchor. With great courage and whatever stamina remained as the biting cold winds of winter descended upon them, parties were arranged to explore the land for a suitable settlement site. By the next summer, 50 of the original 102 passengers had perished, the majority over the harsh winter, and most of them from disease contracted during the voyage.

            From these extremely difficult and humble beginnings Plymouth Colony was built upon the hope and grace of a committed people and the Lord Jesus. Having served as willing pioneers and taking the full brunt of the battle, many more parties were soon making the trip across the Atlantic and adding to the new colony. In time it became a routine crossing peopled primarily by English Puritans who began spreading out into the wilderness. In time the Separatist Pilgrims became greatly outnumbered, though their spiritual stand and way of life had a decided effect on later arrivals.

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.   

Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate (Part 2)

         The word popular is defined by Merriam-Webster as : (1) Of or relating to the general public, (2) Suited to the means of the majority, (3) Frequently encountered or widely accepted, and (4) Commonly liked or approved. [1] 

         According to this definition, the real Lord Jesus is not popular. His message is not popular. And his followers are not popular.

         As a result of His non-popularity, it can be argued that what His enemies did to Him 2000 years ago would be done to Him again in any place at any time in world history.

         Those who have given their lives to Him and are attempting with all their heart to live according to His full curriculum know this, because they are being treated by non-followers as He was treated. During His sojourn here as one of us, some loved Him, but most hated Him. That is just a fact, and it is the same regarding real Christians.

         The Lord’s real teachings appear so foreign to unreal Christians that the following such pronouncements are often downplayed or rejected out of hand as the words of a religious nut:

         “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” [Matthew 10:34-38]

         Regardless of constant pronouncements to the contrary, there is and always has been a wide gulf between the real and the unreal. The real teachings of the Lord demand totality, while the various watered-down versions of counterfeit Christianity demand the opposite, and are always on the lookout for ways to make living for God easier and more inclusive. At the heart of the false teachings are two prominent pillars of non-separation that unreal Christians refuse to eliminate:

         (1) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” [Matthew 6:24]

         (2) He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” [John 8:23-24 NAB]

         “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” [John 15:18-19]

         Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. [1John 2:15-16]

         So who is to blame for the current state of America?

         If America is a Christian nation, who elected all the presidents, senators, and members of congress over the last century and gave them charge of the country?

         If America is a Christian nation, who is the real guilty party concerning our current state of affairs, being that “Christians” have always represented the majority?

         If America is a Christian nation, why have 55 million innocent babies been butchered over the last forty years, and why does the slaughter of innocents continue?

         If America is a Christian nation, why was a central bank created one hundred years ago that rules over all our financial affairs?

         If America is a Christian nation, why are spiritual awakenings and the bringing forth of greater spiritual and Biblical truth always fought against, and primarily by other Christians?

         If America is a Christian nation, why has national judgment been steadily increasing, and why is it now increasing exponentially?

         And if America is a Christian nation, why are most of those who refer to themselves as Christians in this nation acting not like their powerful Lord and Savior, but apparently afraid to be more like Him for fear of monetary or legal retribution? Or blowback from their leaders? Or the threat of disfellowship? And instead spend their Sunday mornings acting out their Christianity exactly like the little ones in Sunday School walled off from the world in false safety? This is not the separation God is talking about. Where is the great presence, real love, and spiritual effectiveness of those who turned the entire Roman Empire upside down?

         It should be obvious by now that institutional American Christianity in general has been dehorned and feminized like the rest of the country.

         Words alone are meaningless. The effect of our words is what matters. The fruit, or evidence, of the Spirit of God in one’s life is what separates him or her from the pack. Because the Lord Jesus said only few would discover and walk out the path of life, the community of real Christians will forever be a distinct minority in the world at large, but great numbers have never mattered to God.

         In fact, the Lord has always managed to do great things with a separated but unified few. [2] 

         You are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

         Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. [1 Peter 2:9-12] [3]

         The Great Awakening is coming forth!

         © 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 2 of 2]


[1] © Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

[2] Consider the story of Gideon’s battle with the Midianites… [Judges 6-7]

[3] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

For a current view of Post-Christianity in America, see this latest research from The Barna Group. Copyright © Barna Group. All Rights Reserved.

Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate (Part 1)

         At the great judgment there will be a steady stream of non-penitents going before the Lord. They will be the ones who justified themselves in life despite their sin. The most guilty will be unreal Christians.

         Over the last 2000 years, unreal Christians have rewritten the pure teachings of Messiah Jesus. And for this, like the hypocritical Pharisees of old, they will receive the greater judgment.

         As the world wonders what has happened to Western society, especially in America, everyone has someone or some group to blame. The progressives are blamed for introducing an anti-Christian purely secular blueprint for society that rewrites the culture, for example. But long before the emergence of the all-encompassing agenda that faces us at present, filled with anti-Christian rhetoric and the establishment of new laws to form a new culture, another group had done the same.

         And the former group was much more successful. Rather than the in-your-face tactics of the present purveyors of the current gathering storm, the former group used a low-key approach. It took full advantage of willingly ignorant Christians who refused to follow the Lord but were conditioned to follow religious leaders and whatever they may teach. These Christians never checked to see if their leaders were standing on the Word of God, or cared to. They never checked to see if their leaders even followed the Lord. It was a mass assumption that their favorite clergyites were acting at the behest of God and relaying His pure Word.

         Boy Howdy, were they ever wrong. Whether these so-called Christian leaders were Protestant or Catholic or Charismatic or whatever, America in general took their words and actions as true and correct. American Christians did not bother to see whether any deception was involved. In fact, the very idea that they were being lied to and led astray was verboten. The religious higher-ups had such a powerful hold on the minds of American Christians that said Christians would flatten anyone for even thinking their brand of Christian religion was incorrect.

         They made the fatal mistake of not separating themselves from the false world of Christian counterfeits. They chose to have their names, lives, and reputations recorded in a different registry other than the one commanded by the Lord:

         And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. [Revelation 20:15]

         America was brawnier then. There was more animosity and open hostility between denominations and religious groupings. Biblically illiterate “Christians” were prone to fight physically to protect their turf. They had no idea they were brainwashed by pretenders. Unreal Christianity ruled through threat and pure hatred against any and all reformers.

         Speaking of which, if America has always been a Christian nation, why was there ever any need of reform? Why was there a Great Awakening in the 1730’s and 40’s? Why did other great revival and reform efforts come forth since then? And why were the greatest resisters in these powerful and undeniable moves of God other Christians?

         It has always been this way. Rather than actually obey the Lord Jesus and follow Him, unreal Christians create their own brand of Christianity that is much easier than the full curriculum of the Lord. And rather than crucifying the flesh as Jesus commanded, unreal Christians crucify real Christians.

         So, back to the judgment. Jesus will judge the fakers, be they deceived or not, based on their adherence to a different gospel and the leaders thereof. He will say things like:

         “I never knew you; ‘DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” [Matthew 7:23]

         A lot of Christians may realize right then and there for the first time that they got it wrong. They will see that their insistence on following someone or something other than the Lord Jesus for the sake of social or religious standing doomed their souls.

         And, of course, it will be too late. An untold number of unreal Christians who have already passed on are awaiting their inevitable fate. Though they will try to plead their case it will not matter.

         While time remains on our side, those of us on this side of eternity might want to make sure we’re getting it right.

         Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

         Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.

         Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.”

         Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.

         Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

         Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

         Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

         Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. [1 Corinthians 10:5-12]

         No one of us is above the teachings of the Lord. Every one of us needs a Savior, and by God’s grace a Savior has been provided. But that doesn’t mean we can simply pick and choose our own Christian beliefs. The Word of God is an all-or-nothing document. Following the Lord and obeying His teachings and commandments is an all-or-nothing proposition. And though we may do some great things on this planet and help many people selflessly and sacrificially, we are not saved by our works. Human virtue is not a ticket to heaven. No matter how righteous we are we will still be proven to be unrighteous by God’s holy standard unless His standard is applied.

         Be encouraged by this opening section of Peter’s second letter. It is an excellent discourse regarding God’s standard of righteousness, separation from the world of sin and deception, and true discipleship unto the Lord:

         Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

         Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

         For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

         Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. [2 Peter 1:1-11] [1] 

         © 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 1 of 2] 


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

For a current view of Post-Christianity in America, see this latest research from The Barna Group. Copyright © Barna Group. All Rights Reserved.