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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.   

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Attitude of Gratitude

         We have much to be thankful for. We are blessed. But we must reserve our greatest thanks for the Lord Jesus. With Him all things are possible!

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THE CHILDREN

         And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. [Mark 10:13-16]

THE WEALTHY POSSESSED BY POSSESSIONS

         As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

         Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” [Mark 10:17-23]

THE CHILDREN NOT POSSESSED BY POSSESSIONS

         The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

         Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” [Mark 10:24-31]

         Please note that when the Lord taught to give to the poor He was referring to the humble poor and never those demanding a handout. If they beg it is only because they are trying to survive and it’s the only thing they know to do. They would rather never have to ask for help. Many never do. They want to be successful. They want to work and be productive.

         There were many poor in the Lord’s day. There was one man who was lame from birth and could not work. He was over forty years old. The only thing he knew to do to survive was beg for alms. Many people had given him alms during his life or he would never have survived. But when Peter and John, who knew this man, after Pentecost, approached him yet again, they did not offer money, because they had none. Instead, they gave the man what he had always wanted—to be whole, to be productive, the serve the Lord the best way possible, and to excel. How do we know this? Look at his attitude after he received his long sought miracle:

         Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.

         When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.

         With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. [Acts 10:1-10] [1]

         This man had an attitude of gratitude. He was faithful. He waited for his miracle for over forty years. When he at last received it he gave the Lord all the glory! Imagine how many children entered into the kingdom as a result of this man’s faithfulness, obedience, and thankful attitude. Good job!

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

         Be thankful for all you have received.

         Be thankful for all you are going to receive.

         Be thankful for the One who gave it all for you.

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[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.

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

        

         In light of so many distressing events taking place in the world at present, it is good to pause on such a day as this and take stock of our many blessings. Sinister forces always at work continually attempt to steal our joy and strength, limit or destroy our faith, and drag us down to a place of apathy and even despair.

         But the devil can stick it all in his left ear.

         I went to get my truck inspected yesterday at a little shop. I walked into the waiting area and a customer looked up at me from whatever magazine he was reading.

         “How’s it going?” I said.

         “Good.”

         I continued, “Isn’t it great to live in America even though things are so messed up? This is still a great country and a great place to live.”

         “Yep,” he said. “I gotta agree with you on that.”

         “And we’re gonna get through all this,” I replied. “We’re taking our country back and somehow or another things will be good again.”

         And he agreed.

         I have discovered that many people agree with this. I also know many Americans are not at all happy with the status quo. Many are angry and getting angrier with each passing day. And watch what happens as taxes on our hard-earned wealth continue to rise exponentially to support an agenda that the vast majority of Americans do not agree with.

         Meanwhile, our beloved lying, censoring media continue to push this un-American agenda with fake happy faces glued on their mugs. At some point people start to understand that the more television they watch the dumber they get. Coincidence?

         In the first century A.D. an obscure Man arrived on the scene with His own agenda. It was an agenda of truth and love. The powers that be eventually hated this Man in part because He threatened their false agenda, much of it based on a false religious paradigm. What we face in this country is similar. Shine a light and watch the cockroaches run for their lives.

         The showdown is coming. It always does. You can’t keep taking freedom away from a freedom-loving people and expect them to go along with it forever.

         The devil tries to convince real Christians that God doesn’t care and that all is lost.

         Well, the devil can go butt a stump.

         Real Christians have God on their side. They are on God’s side. And they don’t have to be perfect. Fake Christians think they must convince everyone they have sterling reputations and ultra-holy lives, but the fact of the matter is that without the sacrifice the Lord Jesus made on our behalf every single one of us winds up in hell, and that includes all the lame brained Christian Pharisees.

         AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? [1 Peter 4:18]

         Self-righteous people have always been the bane of any society, whether they are religious or not. Prideful human beings only care about themselves and their reputations and could not care less about everyone else or their country. Christian Pharisees take control of churches and denominations and put themselves in high authority the same way a miniscule class of elites runs the political and financial sectors of this country. Unless they get their act together with God they can all go jump in the lake. It will give them good practice.

         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 – 21:1]    

         236 years ago some folks in this part of the world got together and said enough. They threw off their oppressors and gained both religious and political freedom. It’s what free people do, and those who are the most free are also those who really have but one ultimate thing to be thankful for on this national day of Thanksgiving:

         Our King died in our place.

         And because of that greatest of all selfless acts, whosoever will can have true spiritual freedom that will last from now throughout all eternity.

         Love your neighbor. Help your neighbor. Bless your neighbor. Give to your neighbor. But more so, bless the Lord Jesus in all you do. Love Him with all your heart. Help Him in His work. Give Him your heart. Thank Him for the life He has bestowed and His many blessings in your life. He is worthy of all.

         Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.

         Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! [2 Corinthians 9:10-15] [1]

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

    


[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.