Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

more general propensity to persecute in Massachusetts than in Plymouth. This opinion is given to correct, as far as it may, an impression that has become wide-spread, that Massachusetts contained all the persecutors and bigots this side of the Atlantic,

It surely is time that this subject was fully set forth, so as to prevent future controversy; and having the materials at hand, we propose to undertake the work of clearing up the confusion which so generally exists.

It seems to have been deemed quite sufficient by Mr. Scott, in order to rid the Pilgrims of the charge of persecution, to show that they were not Puritans nor Separatists; and he asserts that the difference between them "involved nothing less than the whole question of enforced or free religion-of religion by act of the state, or freedom of conscience. . It involved, in the days of the Pilgrim Fathers, the difference between the dominant and persecuting church, which wielded the sword of the state, and the persecuted victims of that sword." The difference was "wide, radical, and irreconcilable.”

Speaking in a general way, all the New England colonists were Puritans, and it is largely for this reason that the settlers of Plymouth and Massachusetts have been so often confounded. In this wider sense the term embraced, in the mother country, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists. John Bunyan was a Puritan divine, as well as John Owen. But in its more restricted and proper use, it was given to those reformers who, within the pale of the Church of England, were dissatisfied with the popish impurities retained by Queen Elizabeth and her parliament, and the observance of which was made compulsory, under the severest penalties, by the infamous Act of Uniformity, passed in 1559. Those who, within the church, hoped and labored to purge it of doctrines and ceremonies conceived by them to be unscriptural, and who, in great numbers, suffered the loss of all things for their persistent non-conformity, were stigmatized as Puritans.

Out of Puritanism logically grew Separation. About the year 1580, Robert Browne, a man of distinguished family connections, began to preach with great boldness, not only against the corruptions of the church, but against the whole established order. He pleaded for a church composed of only true Christians, under the sole headship of Christ, and, of course, not dependent upon the civil arm. His doctrines were radical and revolutionary. Though he himself afterwards fell under a cloud, yet his followers, under the names of Brownists, Barrowists, etc., rapidly increased, forming themselves into a distinct church, upon an independent platform.

a

Barrow, Greenwood, Penry, Ainsworth, and Francis Johnson, were among the most eminent Separatists of that age. The first three suffered death for their opinions.

The Separatists were opposed to both Conformists and Nonconformists (or Puritans) within the Church of England. They charged the latter with gross inconsistency in retaining their communion with a corrupt and intolerant church. As an outgrowth of the Brownists, but repudiating the name, as also what they deemed the extreme views and bitter spirit of Browne and his immediate followers, were the Independents. John Robinson-nomen venerabile-born in 1575, a graduate of Cambridge, "a man of profound scholarship, high culture, and largeness of heart," has been called “the father of modern Independency.” He was at first a Brownist, but gradually adopted more moderate views, and a milder tone towards the Established Church. The distinction, however, should not be too strongly drawn, for substantially there were Independents before Robinson established his church—the "Pilgrim Church”—at Scrooby, England, in 1602. Skeats calls the church founded at Amsterdam by the exiled Brownists, Johnson and Ainsworth, in 1596, the first Independent Church on the continent; and it was this body with which Robinson's church, when exiled from England, was connected, until its removal not long after to Leyden, whence, re-organized under Robinson and Brewster, the greater portion of it emigrated to the New World. Robinson expected to follow his brethren of the pilgrimage; but though he was unable to do so, he was no less the soul of the enterprise, so illustriously providential, which planted Independency in America. Thus the Pilgrims came to Plymouth as a regularly organized church; and it is their glory that, not long after, their Puritan neighbors of Massachusetts Bay, who began to come over eight years later, accepted their church-polity, and the religion of New England became Independency or Congregationalism/terms which are substantially the same. The two currents which in the Old World, under the names of Puritans and Independents, had moved in separate channels, here at length blended peacefully together.

It would seem, then, from this cursory survey, that the difference between the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonists could hardly be "radical and irreconcilable.” We propose to show the points both of difference and agreement. In general, we may say that before their coming to America, the Pilgrims and Puritans were agreed in doctrine, but differed as to church-order. There was a wider disagreement in spirit; the result of the different influences under which the two parties had been trained in England and Holland. The former

[ocr errors]

had long been separated from the English Establishment, and had breathed the freer air of the Low Countries, where, says Bradford, himself a Pilgrim Father, they “heard was freedom of religion for all men." The latter, up to their arrival in America—the first two companies in 1628 and 1630—had remained in the unkindly bosom of the National Church; and, notwithstanding their protests against its corruptions and their endurance of its persecutions, they still retained an ardent affection for it. The Rev. John White, the projector of the Massachusetts emigration, in reply to the charge brought against them that they were Separatists, replied: "I persuade myself there is no Separatist known unto the Governor, and if there be any, it is far from their purpose, as it is from their safety, to continue him among them.” When in the course of the voyage, the fearful discovery was made that one of the detested party, Rev. Ralph Smith, was on board, Cradock wrote on behalf of the Company to Governor Endicott, April 17, 1639:

Passage was granted to him before we understood his difference in judgment in some things from our ministry, and though we have a very good opinion of his honesty, we give you this order, that unless he will be conformable to our government, you will suffer him not to remain within the limits of your grant.

[ocr errors]

This unfortunate Separatist, driven from Massachusetts Bay, found a kind refuge and an honored pastorship in Plymouth, and Mr. Scott cites this as the first case of persecution by the Puritans—the persecution of one of their brethren of the Separation. This would seem to indicate a “wide," if not an "irreconcilable," difference in sentiments and temper, between the two colonies. When we recall, however, one of the reasons assigned by Mr. White for not allowing Separatists in the Massachusetts company—the “safety" of the colony-and consider that very soon after their arrival, in 1628, friendly relations and a substantial agreement in ecclesiastical matters grew up between the two colonies, resulting in 1633 in a common form of worship, and in 1648 in the adoption by the four confederated colonies of the Cambridge Platform, by which they all became Separatists in fact, we are brought to the opinion that the abhorrence of Separation manifested by the early Massachusetts Puritans was more seeming than real, the result chiefly of prudential and political causes. Real Separatists at heart, as the re-ordination of a large number of Massachusetts ministers proves, they were afraid to be known as such, and poor Mr. Smith was hurried off to Plymouth, in order that a favorable impression might be made in high places in England. This consideration was doubtless

united with real affection for the Established Church, in the minds of Mr. Winthrop and others. On the eve of leaving England they issued an Address to “the rest of their brethren in and of the Church of England,” in which they said: “We esteem it an honor to call the Church of England our dear mother.Something more than policy must, however, have led Mr. Higginson, who came over in 1628, to express himself thus:

We will not say, as the Separatists were wont to say at their leaving of England, Farewell, Babylon! Farewell, Rome! But we will say, Farewell, dear England! Farewell, the Church of God in ngland, and all Christian friends there! We do not go to New England as Separatists from the Church of England, though we cannot but separate from the corruptions of it; but we go to practice the positive part of church-reformation, and propagate the gospel in America.

Yet, the very year of his arrival in Massachusetts, Mr. Higginson became a practical Separatist, for he was re-ordained with Mr. Skelton, who was considered a Separatist from the outset; and on this occasion the Plymouth Colony was represented by general messengers, among them Governor Bradford, who “gave them (the Puritan ministers] the right hand of fellowship.” The year before, in 1628, Dr. Fuller, a Plymouth physician of high repute for medical skill, judgment, and piety, visited the other colony during a time of serious sickness; and there he conferred with the leading men in regard to the ecclesiastical affairs of the settlement, evidently feeling some solicitude as to the turn they might take. “We have some privy enemies in the Bay," he wrote, “but blessed be God, more friends. . . . . Captain Endicott is a second Barrow.” And Endicott, in a letter to Bradford, at Plymouth, said: “I rejoiced much that I am by him [Dr. Fuller] satisfied touching your judgments of the outward form of God's wor

Bradford (“History of Massachusetts ") says that “Mr. Skelton and Mr. Endicott were entirely in sentiment with the Plymouth Church as to the errors and corruptions of the Church of England, and of the propriety of a separation from it.” When John Cotton, who was the most influential of the colonists in determining the constitution of the Massachusetts churches, arrived in 1633, he advised his friends "to take counsel with their Christian brethren in Plymouth, and to do nothing to injure or offend them "-and accordingly, a regular church-system was then adopted in Massachusetts Bay, in essential harmony with that of Plymouth. Thus did the Puritans themselves, as a body, become practical Separatists. Yet among those early Massachusetts ministers there prevailed considerable

ship.”

a

difference of opinion as to the validity of their Episcopal ordination. We have seen that Skelton and Higginson were re-ordained in 1629; 80, subsequently, were Mr. Wilson, Mr. Cotton, Mr. Hooker, Mr. Phillips, and others. But Mr. Wilson, when constituted teacher of the church at Charlestown by the imposition of hands, protested that he did not regard it as a renunciation of his ordination in England, yielding in a measure his own convictions to the feelings of his brethren; while Mr. Phillips, who was afterwards settled at Watertown, told Dr. Faller, of Plymouth, that if they would have him stand minister by that calling which he received from the prelates in England, be. would leave them. And yet, before leaving the mother country,

he had joined with Winthrop in calling the Church of England his "dear mother." But Mr. Lenthall, at his settlement in Weymouth, "standing,” as Lechford says, "upon his ministry as to the Church of England, was compelled to recant some words, and Mr. Cotton said to him, that "his former ordination, not being given by them that had lawful power, will not serve to make him a minister here, except they (the people of Weymouth] were in a mutual covenant as a church before." At an ordination in Concord, in 1637, the ministers present "resolved that such as had been ministers in England were lawful ministers by the call of the people, notwithstanding their acceptance of the call of the bishops (for which they humbled themselves, acknowledging it their sin"). Thus, says Palfrey, “In their position [the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonists), such words as Nonconformity and Separation ceased to be significant.” It is evident, then, that the “wide and irreconcilable” difference affirmed by Mr. Scott, did not prevent a friendly intercourse between the original colonists of Plymouth and Massachusetts, nor a substantial agreement, from the first, in doctrine and church-polity, though, as we learn from Dr. Fuller, with some important exceptions, amounting to a real difference, which can only be understood by a careful review of the previous and contemporaneous history of the two parties, the Puritans and the Separatists, in the mother country.

If we go back to the age of Queen Elizabeth, when the Puritans first appeared, we shall find that, while their leading spirits took strong ground against those measures by which she sought to compel uniformity in her dominion, and did thus give a decided impulse to the cause of civil and religious freedom, bringing into greater prominence the doctrines and spirit of Protestantism; they still held to principles which crippled their influence, as being really inconsistent with their purpose of church-reformation. They stoutly protested against many of the Queen's measures as unscriptural and oppressive,

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »