top of page

Of Plymouth Plantation

And first of the occasion and inducements and there unto; the which that I may truly unfold, I must begin at the very root and rise of the same. The which I shall to endeavor to manifest in a plain style; with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things, at least as near as my slender judgement can attain the same.

It is well known unto the godly and judicious, how ever since the first breaking out of the light of the gospel, in our honorable nation of England (which was the first of nations whom the Lord adorned therewith, after the gross darkness of popery which had covered, and overspread the Christian world) what wars, and oppositions ever since Satan hath raised, maintained and continued against the Saints, from time, to time, in one sort, or other. Sometimes by bloody death and cruel torments; other whiles imprisonments, banishments and other hard usages. As being loath his kingdom should go down, the truth prevail; and the churches of God revert to their ancient purity; and recover their primitive order, liberty and beauty.

But when he could not prevail by these means against the main truths of the gospel, but that they began to take rooting in many places; being watered with the blood of the martyrs, and blessed from Heaven with a gracious increase; he then began to take him to his ancient stratagems, used of old against the first Christians. That when by the bloody, and barbarous persecutions of the heathen emperors, he could not stop, and subvert the course of the gospel; but that it speedily overspread, with a wonderful celerity, the then best known parts, of the world; he then began to sow errors, heresies, and wonderful dissensions amongst the professors themselves (working upon their pride, and ambition, with other corrupt passions, incident to all mortal men; yea to the saints themselves in some measure). By which woeful effects followed; as not only bitter contentions, and heart burnings, schisms, with other horrible confusions. But Satan took occasion and advantage thereby to foist in a number of vile ceremonies, with many unprofitable canons, and decrees, which have since been as snares, to many poor and peaceable souls, even to this day.

So as in the ancient times, the persecutions by the heathen, and their emperors, was not greater than of the Christians one against other. The Arians, and other their complices, against the orthodox and true Christians. As witnesseth Socrates in his 2 book. His words are these; The violence truly (saith he) was no less than that of old practiced towards the Christians when they were compelled, and drawn to sacrifice to idols; for many endured sundry kinds of torment, often rackings, and dismembering of their joints; confiscating of their goods; some bereaved of their native soil; others departed this life under the hands of the tormentor, and some died in banishment, and never saw their country again, etc.

The like method Satan hath seemed to hold in these later times, since the truth began to spring and spread after the great defection made by Antichrist that man of sin.

For to let pass the infinite examples in sundry nations, and several places of the world, and instance in our own. When as that old serpent could not prevail by those fiery flames and other his cruel tragedies which he (by his instruments) put in ure, everywhere in the days of Queen Mary, and before. He then began another kind of war, and went more closely to work, not only to oppugn, but even to ruinate and destroy the kingdom of Christ, by more secret and subtle means, by kindling the flames of contention, and sowing the seeds of discord, and bitter enmity amongst the professors (and seeming reformed) themselves. For when he could not prevail (by the former means) against the principal doctrines of faith; he bent his force against the holy discipline, and outward regiment of the kingdom of Christ, by which those holy doctrines should be conserved, and true piety maintained amongst the saints, and people of God.


Mr. Fox recorded, how that besides those worthy martyrs and confessors which were burned in Queen Mary's days and otherwise tormented, many (both students and others) fled out of the land, to the number of 800. And became several congregations. At Wesel, Frankfort, Basel, Emden, Markpurge, Strasburg and Geneva, etc. Amongst whom (but especially those at Frankfort) began that bitter war of contention and persecution about the ceremonies and service book, and other popish and anti-Christian stuff, the plague of England to this day, which are like the high places in Israel, which the prophets cried out against, and were their ruin; which the better part sought, (according to the purity of the gospel) to root out, and utterly to abandon. And the other part (under veiled pretenses) for their own ends, and advancements, sought as stiffly, to continue, maintain and defend. As appeareth by the discourse thereof published in print, Anno: 1575 (a book that deserves better to be known, and considered).


The one side labored to have the right worship of God, and discipline of Christ, established in the church, according to the simplicity of the gospel; without the mixture of men's inventions. And to have and to be ruled by the laws of God's Word; dispensed in those offices, and by those officers of pastors, teachers and elders, &c., according to the Scriptures. The other party, (though under many colors and pretenses) endeavored to have the episcopal dignity (after the popish manner) with their large power, and jurisdiction, still retained; with all those courts, canons and ceremonies, together with all such livings, revenues and subordinate officers, with other such means, as formerly upheld their anti-Christian greatness. And enabled them with lordly, and tyrannous power to persecute the poor servants of God. This contention was so great, as neither the honor of God, the common persecution, nor the mediation of Mr. Calvin and other worthies of the Lord, in those places, could prevail with those thus episcopally minded, but they proceeded by all means to disturb the peace of this poor persecuted church. Even so far as to charge (very unjustly, and ungodly; yet prelate-like) some of their chief opposers, with rebellion, and high treason against the Emperor, and other such crimes.


And this contention died not with Queen Mary; nor was left beyond the seas, but at her death these people returning into England under gracious Queen Elizabeth, many of them being preferred to bishoprics, and other promotions, according to their aims and desires. That inveterate hatred against the holy discipline of Christ in his church hath continued to this day. Insomuch that for fear it should prevail, all plots, and devices have been used to keep it out, incensing the queen and state against it as dangerous for thc commonwealth; and that it was most needful that the fundamental points of religion should be preached in those ignorant, and superstitious times. And to win the weak and ignorant they might retain divers harmless ceremonies, and though it were to be wished that divers things were reformed, yet this was not a season for it. And many the like to stop the mouths of the more godly. To bring them on to yield to one ceremony after another; and one corruption after another; by these wiles beguiling some, and corrupting others till at length they began to persecute all the zealous professors in the land (though they knew little what this discipline meant) both by word, arid deed, if they would not submit to their ceremonies, and become slaves to them, and their popish trash, which have no ground in the word of God, but are relics of that man of sin. And the more the light of the gospel grew, the more they urged their subscriptions to these corruptions. So as (notwithstanding all their former presences, and fair colors) they whose eyes God had not justly blinded might easily see whereto these things tended. And to cast contempt the more upon the sincere servants of God, they opprobriously and most injuriously, gave unto, and imposed upon them, that name of Puritans; which is said the Novatians (out of pride) did assume and take unto themselves. And lamentable it is to see the effects which have followed; religion hath been disgraced, the godly grieved, afflicted, persecuted, and many exiled; sundry have lost their lives in prisons, and other ways. On the other hand, sin hath been countenanced; ignorance, profaneness and atheism increased, and the papists encouraged to hope again for a day.


This made that holy man Mr. Perkins cry out in his exhortation to repentance, upon Zephaniah 2. Religion (saith he) hath been amongst us this 35 years; but the more it is published, the more it is contemned, and reproached of many, &c. Thus not profaneness nor wickedness; but religion itself is a byword, a mocking stock, and a matter of reproach; so that in England at this day, the man or woman that begins to profess religion, and to serve God, must resolve with himself to sustain mocks and injuries even as though he lived amongst the enemies of religion. And this common experience hath confirmed, and made too apparent.


But that I may come more near my intendment: when as by the travail, and diligence of some godly, and zealous preachers, and God's blessing on their labors; as in other places of the land, so in the North parts, many became enlightened by the Word of God; and had their ignorance and sins discovered unto them, and began by His grace to reform their lives, and make conscience of their ways. The work of God was no sooner manifest in them; but presently they were both scoffed and scorned by the profane multitude, and the ministers urged with the yoke of subscription, or else must be silenced; and the poor people were so vexed with apparators, and pursuivants, and the commissary courts, as truly their affliction was not small; which notwithstanding they bore sundry years with much patience, till they were occasioned (by the continuance, and increase of these troubles, and other means which the Lord raised up in those days) to see further into things by the light of the Word of God. How not only these base and beggarly ceremonies were unlawful; but also that the lordly and tyrannous power of the prelates ought not to be submitted unto; which thus (contrary to the freedom of the gospel) would load and burden men's consciences; and by their compulsive power make a profane mixture of persons, and things in the worship of God. And that their offices and callings; courts and canons &c. were unlawful and anti-Christian; being such as have no warrant in the Word of God; but the same that were used in popery, and still retained. Of which a famous author thus writeth in his Dutch commentaries. At the coming of King James into England; The new king (saith he) found there established the reformed religion according to the reformed religion of King Edward the 6, retaining or keeping still the spiritual state of the bishops, &c. after the old manner, much varying and differing from the reformed churches, in Scotland, France, and the Netherlands, Emden, Geneva, etc., whose reformation is cut, or shapen much nearer the first Christian churches, as it was used in the Apostles' time.


So many therefore (of these professors) as saw the evil of these things (in these parts) and whose hearts the Lord had touched with heavenly zeal for his truth; they shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage. And as the Lord's free people, joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in the fellowship of the gospel, to walk in all His ways, made known, or to be made known unto them (according to their best endeavors, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them. And that it cost them something this ensuing history will declare.

These people became 2 distinct bodies or churches; and in regard of distance of place did congregate severally; for they were of sundry towns and villages, some in Nottinghamshire, some of Lincolnshire, and some of Yorkshire, where they border nearest together. In one of these churches (besides others of note) was Mr. John Smith, a man of able gifts, and a good preacher; who afterwards was chosen their pastor. But these afterwards falling into some errors in the Low Countries, there (for the most part) buried themselves and their names.

But in this other church (which must be the subject of our discourse) beside other worthy men, was Mr. Richard Clyfton, a grave and reverend preacher, who by his pains and diligence had done much good, and under God had been a means of the conversion of many. And also that famous and worthy man Mr. John Robinson, who afterwards was their pastor for many years, till the Lord took him away by death. Also Mr. William Brewster a reverent man, who afterwards was chosen an elder of the church and lived with them till old age.

But after these things; they could not bug continue in any peaceable condition; but were hunted and persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them. For some were taken and clapped up in prison, others had their houses beset and watched night and day, and hardly escaped their hands; and the most were fain to flee and leave their houses and habitations, and the means of their livelihood. Yet these and many other sharper things which afterward befell them, were no other than they looked for, and therefore were the better prepared to bear them by the assistance of God's grace and spirit; yet seeing themselves thus molested, and that there was no hope of their continuance there, by a joint consent they resolved to go into the Low Countries, where they heard was freedom of religion for all men; as also how sundry from London, and other parts of the land had been exiled and persecuted for the same cause, and were gone thither; and lived at Amsterdam and in other places of the land. So after they had continued together about a year, and kept their meetings every Sabbath, in one place or other, exercising the worship of God amongst themselves, notwithstanding all the diligence and malice of their adversaries, they seeing they could no longer continue in that condition, they resolved to get over into Holland as they could. Which was in the year 1607 and 1608; of which more at large in the next chapter.


bottom of page