Of Plymouth Plantation
Of their settling in Holland, and their manner of living, and entertainment there.
Being now come into the Low Countries, they saw many goodly and fortified cities, strongly walled and guarded with troops of armed men. Also, they heard a strange and uncouth language and beheld the different manners and customs of the people, with their strange fashions and attires, all so far differing from that of their plain country villages (wherein they were bred, and had so long lived), as it seemed they were come into a new world. But these were not the things they much looked on, or long took up their thoughts; for they had other work in hand, and another kind of war to wage and maintain. For though they saw fair and beautiful cities flowing with abundance of all sorts of wealth and riches, yet it was not long before they saw the grime and grisly face of poverty coming upon them like an armed man with whom they must buckle and encounter, and from whom they could not flee. But they were armed with faith and patience against him and all his encounters, and though they were sometimes foiled, yet by God's assistance, they prevailed and got the victory.
Now when Mr. Robinson, Mr. Brewster, and other principal members were come over (for they were of the last, and stayed to help the weakest over before them), such things were thought on as were necessary for their settling and best ordering of the church affairs. And when they had lived at Amsterdam about a year, Mr. Robinson (their pastor) and some others of best discerning, seeing how Mr. John Smith and his company had already fallen into contention with the church that was there before them, and no means they could use would do any good to cure the same, and also that the flames of contention were like to break out in that ancient church itself (as afterwards lamentably came to pass), which things they prudently foreseeing, thought it was best to remove before they were anyway engaged with the same. Though they well knew it would be much to the prejudice of their outward estates, both at present and in likelihood in the future, as indeed it proved to be.
Their removal to Leyden.
For these and some other reasons, they removed to Leyden, a fair and beautiful city, and of a sweet situation, but made more famous by the university wherewith it is adorned, in which (of late) had been so many learned men. But wanting that traffic by sea which Amsterdam enjoys, it was not so beneficial for their outward means of living and estates. But being now here pitched, they fell to such trades and employments as they best could, valuing peace and their spiritual comfort above any other riches whatsoever. And at length, they came to raise a competent and comfortable living, but with hard and continual labor.
Being thus settled (after many difficulties), they continued many years in a comfortable condition, enjoying much sweet and delightful society and spiritual comfort together in the ways of God, under the able ministry and prudent government of Mr. John Robinson and Mr. William Brewster, who was an assistant unto him in the place of an elder, unto which he was now called and chosen by the church. So as they grew in knowledge and other gifts and graces of the spirit of God and lived together in peace and love and holiness, and many came unto them from divers parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation. And if at any time, any differences arose or offenses broke out (as it cannot be, but sometime there will, even amongst the best of men), they were ever so met with and nipped in the head betimes, or otherwise so well composed, as still love, peace, and communion was continued; or else the church purged of those that were incurable and incorrigible when, after much patience used, no other means would serve, which seldom came to pass.
Yea, such was the mutual love and reciprocal respect that this worthy man had to his flock, and his flock to him, that it might be said of them as it once was of that famous emperor Marcus Aurelius and the people of Rome: that it was hard to judge whether he delighted more in having such a people, or they in having such a pastor. His love was great towards them, and his care was always bent for their best good, both for soul and body; for besides his singular abilities in divine things (wherein he excelled) he was also very able to give directions in civil affairs and to foresee dangers and inconveniences; by which means he was very helpful to their outward estates, and so was every way as a common father unto them.
And none did more offend him than those that were close and cleaving to themselves, and retired from the common good, as also such as would be stiff and rigid in matters of outward order and inveigh against the evils of others, and yet be remiss in themselves and not so careful to express a virtuous conversation. They, in like manner, had ever a reverent regard unto him and had him in precious estimation, as his worth and wisdom did deserve; and though they esteemed him highly while he lived and labored amongst them; yet much more after his death, when they came to feel the want of his help and saw (by woeful experience) what a treasure they had lost, to the grief of their hearts, and wounding of their souls. Yea, such a loss as they saw could not be repaired; for it was as hard for them to find such another leader and feeder in all respects as for the Taborites to find another Ziska. And though they did not call themselves orphans (as the other did) after his death, yet they had cause as much to lament (in another regard) their present condition and after usage. But to return; I know not but it may be spoken, to the honor of God and without prejudice to any, that such was the true piety, the humble zeal, the fervent love of this people (whilst they thus lived together) towards God and his ways, and the single-heartedness and sincere affection one towards another, that they came as near the primitive pattern of the first churches as any other church of these later times have done, according to their rank and quality.
But seeing it is not my purpose to treat of the several passages that befell this people whilst they thus lived in the Low Countries (which might worthily require a large treatise of itself), but to make way to show the beginning of this plantation, which is that I aim at. Yet because some of their adversaries did (upon the rumor of their removal) cast out slanders against them, as if that state had been weary of them and had rather driven them out (as the heathen historians did feign of Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt), than that it was their own free choice and motion, I will therefore mention a particular or two to show the contrary, and the good acceptation they had in the place where they lived. And first, though many of them were poor, yet there was none so poor but if they were known to be of that congregation, the Dutch (either bakers or others) would trust them in any reasonable matter when they wanted money. Because they had found by experience how careful they were to keep their word, and saw them so painful and diligent in their callings; yea, they would strive to get their custom and to employ them above others in their work, for their honesty and diligence.
Again; the magistrates of the city, about the time of their coming away or a little before, in the public place of justice, gave this commendable testimony of them (in the reproof of the Walloons, who were of the French church in that city): these English (said they) have lived amongst us now these 12 years, and yet we never had any suit or accusation come against any of them, but your strifes and quarrels are continual, etc.
In these times also were the great troubles raised by the Arminians, who, as they greatly molested the whole state, so this city in particular ( in which was the chief university) so as there were daily and hot disputes in the schools thereabout; and as the students and other learned were divided in their opinions herein, so were the 2 professors or divinity readers themselves; the one daily teaching for it, and other against it. Which grew to that pass, that few of the disciples of the one would hear the other teach.
But Mr. Robinson, though he taught thrice a week himself and wrote sundry books, besides his manifold pains otherwise, yet he went constantly to hear their readings, and heard the one as well as the other; by which means he was so well grounded in the controversy, and saw the force of all their arguments, and knew the shifts of the adversary. And being himself very able; none was fitter to buckle with them than himself, as appeared by sundry disputes; so as he began to be terrible to the Arminians; which made Episcopius (the Arminian professor) to put forth his best strength and set forth sundry theses, which by public dispute he would defend against all men.
Now Poliander, the other professor, and the chief preachers of the city desired Mr. Robinson to dispute against him; but he was loath, being a stranger; yet the other did importune him and told him that such was the ability and nimbleness of the adversary; that the truth would suffer, if he did not help them. So as he condescended and prepared himself against the time; and when the day came, the Lord did so help him to defeat the truth and foil this adversary, as he put him to an apparent nonplus in this great and public audience. And the like he did a 2 or 3 time, upon such like occasions. The which as it caused many to praise God that the truth had so famous victory, so it procured him much honor and respect from those learned men and others which loved the truth.
Yea, so far were they from being weary of him and his people, or desiring their absence, as it was said by some (of no mean note), that were it not for giving offense to the state of England, they would have preferred him otherwise if he would, and allowed them some public favor. Yea, when there was speech of the removal into these parts, sundry of note and eminency of that nation would have had them come under them, and for that end made them large offers. Now though I might allege many other particulars and examples of the like kind to show the untruth and unlikelihood of this slander, yet these shall suffice, seeing it was believed of few, being only raised by the malice of some, who labored their disgrace.