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 Israelites 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.
Spiritual Pioneers: The Faithful Remnant
Today is Rosh Hashanah.
Happy New Year!
And what a new year it is. Much spiritual progress has been made over the preceding years, and the time has now arrived when fruit is forming on the trees and gardens are bringing forth produce. A ton of work was done to get us to this point, and in the early going it was hit and miss.
There was much suffering. It is always this way for those who attempt the impossible, for those stalwart pioneers who envision a much better future than their less than ideal present, and are willing to go to any lengths to achieve the desired result.
Our Lord Jesus was such a pioneer. He entered into this world during a very trying time for His own people as a Savior and Mentor, and as One who would get the nation back on track. But for the nation of Israel proper, or actually what was left of Israel, He failed to remedy the situation.
Perhaps it was because He was dealing with the worst generation in the nation’s history:
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” [Matthew 11:16-19]
Or in their case, stupid is as stupid does.
The nation rejected God. And forty years later it ceased to exist.
But within this nation at that time was a faithful remnant. There was always a remnant. And it was the remnant that kept the nation alive. It was the faith of the remnant that kept God involved because He had signed an everlasting covenant, and as long as there were some, though few, who abided in the covenant as He did, the covenant would stay in effect.
Nevertheless, for the nation proper, it was doomed. It was doomed for the same reasons it suffered judgment on far too many occasions in its history to recount. The people actually doomed themselves due to their love of sin and rebellion, disobedience and stubbornness, pride and trust in themselves, and an overwhelming desire to be like all the rebellious nations around them instead of being the nation of God.
Mostly, though, it was because of their unbelief.
But again, there was always a faithful remnant, and at times the faithful remnant had gained such a foothold it brought the entire nation back on course and in right standing with God.
Yet in the first century A.D. the opposite happened—the bad guys had wrested control. And their control was so great and far-reaching they would never lose control, and thus, they doomed themselves since they rejected God’s authority. They failed to discern the times. They did not understand that no matter how hard they clutched control their grip would be broken.
And unseen by many, in the midst of all this spiritual warfare and transition, regardless of all the political machinations and skullduggery, something else very significant was taking place at that time that had never happened before—a new nation was forming.
The birth of the new coincided with the death of the old.
There is solid research that makes what most have been taught to believe to be a specious claim—that by the end of the first century, more descendants of Abraham accepted their Messiah than rejected Him.
How can this be?
It is the same dynamic taking place in America at present. Polls consistently show that the American people in general generally disagree with the actions and beliefs of their government, regardless of the party in power, yet they keep returning the same people and kinds of people to leadership within their government.
How can this be?
Do we not recall Scriptures such as the following?
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. [John 9:22]
Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. [John 12:42-43] 
This exact dynamic happens within many American churches. The majority is such that it never makes waves, never rocks the boat, never questions authority, and thus is more or less a blob of nothingness that looks great but is less filling, because they are not filled with the Spirit of God, and because they love the approval of men rather than God. And everyone knows it is far better to be a good little boy or girl and always go along to get along.
That’s how America was founded.
And it’s not how the community of the Lord was founded!
The Lord’s new nation was formed by those who stood up for God and His Truth regardless of what it cost them personally. Thus, one can see that there were many, many people flying under the radar at that time within the nation of Israel proper for fear of those in control. That’s why the Lord Jesus was subjected to a kangaroo court and their idiotic decision, and why no one came to His defense. Most were scared to death and had been conditioned by those in power, though only a relative few, to never buck illicit authority.
But after the nation was dissolved many descendants of Abraham saw the light that much more. The Lord predicted exactly what would happen, and He warned those to escape the judgment when it arrived, and these were even told where to go to be safe.
But for those in control who refused to listen, the ones who ran their nation into the ground, there was no escape. There was nothing but judgment.
Keep this in mind at this time. A new year has dawned and with it a new time for the people of God. It would be good for every single person who claims to be a real Christian to stand up for the Lord Jesus and be counted, though also understanding well that it will cost.
So, what? It has always cost. Pioneers must take it on the chin for those coming after. They must fight and persevere so the squeamish will have someone to look upon to cure them of their squeamishness. Our Lord paid the greatest price of all and gave the greatest gift of all. The original apostles followed in His footsteps. Their walk with God and work for God cost them everything.
But as a result, look what we have two thousand years later. And look at what is coming forth just now. The Lord’s people are gaining in strength and unity, and are maturing en masse. What is the devil to do?
How about the same thing he’s always done? Convince people to fear him rather than God. Convince people to go along with a dead set-up instead of mustering the courage to journey into life. Tell people to always seek the approval of men, even if they be a member of the religious ruling class. The devil destroyed Israel in this way. And he is trying very hard to destroy the community of the Lord the same way.
This is how he does it (Pay attention):
He puts in power those who are in it for themselves. And those he puts in power kick out all the stalwarts who stand for God. This is exactly how Israel became a non-prophet nation and is how most churches and ministry organizations become non-prophet organizations.
Prophets and those like them stand up for the Lord whatever it may cost. They die with their boots on. They die with their integrity intact. They stand up to the purveyors of false doctrine. They rail against religious and/or political idiots who stand in the place of authority but against the God of all authority. How many of the Lord’s rebukathons must we read before we see this?
They got Him because He revealed them, and He wasn’t afraid of what they would do to Him.
Yet many people are presently afraid. They are very afraid. They are consumed by fear. Hence, sluggish, dead churches and a country on the brink.
But also, a new nation forming.
And a Great Awakening in the making…
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? [Romans 11:17-24]
© 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 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.
Door of Life
Real Life is the one thing lacking in the Christian experience of most, and it is the reason so many Christians are stacked up against the outside of the entry door to the Kingdom. Milling around without, not wanting to venture inside, they have set up transitory venues like so many crude wooden market booths constructed hastily against the outer walls. The door remains in their midst and every so often someone has the temerity to not only ask about it but want to proceed through it.
“We can’t have that!” the vendors all cry. Denominational Christianity always winces when someone wants to go deeper into a closer walk with God. They are all well aware of the real Spirit-filled experiences of others but have been so conditioned by their own reluctance and weakness, and also their cultural underpinnings to shun all things “Pentecostal,” that they successfully remain outside. The Lord continues to beckon all to the door however, as He always has. Large numbers of “I don’t think so’s” will not sway Him from His mission. The door of death has become persona non grata and down-to-earth Christians recoil at what would happen to their social standing if they followed the Lord through it.
The people on that original Day of Pentecost had the same concerns at some early point in their walks with God but had quickly cast off the doubts. They instead manned-up and courageously took a stand for God and the truth. They realized that something optimum must happen, that something very powerful and new awaited them on the other side, and that they must obey the Lord.
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” [Acts 1:4-8]
We all know what happened next. If only the Lord had arranged some other way that did not involve such boisterous expression and (crud!) speaking in tongues. What a terrible way to start the Church! Well, at least we can all be glad that it was over long ago, right? That it doesn’t happen anymore. That God has thankfully done away with it. That…
Well, the above is true, of course, for those who reject it and build church communities without it, and remove any and all people from their midst who actually do it. And there are other things behind that door of death, you know. The people outside hear stories of miraculous healings and strong manifestations of the very Spirit of God that never take place outside in the normal world. Some are always curious but are very concerned about breaking any social conventions and losing their standing among their fellows. I mean, what would people think, right? “Can’t do it, no sir. I’m stayin’ out here. Those people inside that door are freaks…”
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3:3-7]
There’s a Holy Ghost experience waiting inside the Kingdom. The Door of Death is always open. Real repentance removes our sin and all things that hinder, and prepares us for real Life. The 120 knew something incredible was going to happen, but no one could have imagined just how incredible.
Of the tens of thousands who followed the Lord during His ministry, only 120 followed Him all the way to the Upper Room. It was a command, of course, but not everyone obeyed. The majority never obeyed. You can be sure that at least a few hundred had severe second thoughts when the Day of Pentecost arrived. They had been the reluctant ones. The Lord had appeared to over five hundred at one time in His glorified state, but most of these experienced Pentecost outside the initial Upper Room experience. They refused to enter the Door of Death and thus did not understand that it was also The Door of Life. They stayed back and some even watched what was happening. They missed it! But many of them found their way to the streets below the Upper Room as Peter preached that initial message of the entire Church Age. They ran through the door and were a part of that original class of three thousand that turned Jerusalem upside down.
The moral of the story is that only a few are willing to be pioneers, leave all, and do all that the Lord requires, including entering the Door. They must experience real Life. They must show succeeding generations the Way.
© 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 2 of 2]
 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.