"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall (1882).
"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall (1882).

The Mayflower. After various unsuccessful attempts, the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth on Wednesday, September 6th (Old Style 16th) 1620, the passengers numbering one hundred and two, including not more than a dozen from the Scrooby district, and after enduring untold hardships, they nine weeks afterwards sighted land, which was not Virginia but Cape Cod, and let go their anchors within what is now the harbour of Princetown, or New Plymouth. Here they had to meet a new difficulty, for they had no authority for this district, and if they landed they had no laws binding, so on Saturday, November 11th—21st, they entered into a solemn compact of loyalty to King James, and as a civil body politic planting their colony, after which they set foot on shore, and after making investigations they in fact or fiction stepped on to the big stone which they named "Plymouth Rock."

The Mayflower Compact referred to demands more than a passing notice, because it became the foundation document under which they were afterwards governed, and not only so, but it defined a system of government which was later on imitated, and practically copied in its principles, by the other States as they were founded. They covenanted and combined themselves into a Civil Body Politic for better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the Christian Faith, the honour of their King and country, to enact and frame just and equal laws and offices from time to time as should be thought most meet and convenient, and for the general good, and they promised all due submission and obedience. Here was a basis, self government, equal laws, common rights, individual liberty, joined with obligations, for rights and duties must always go hand in hand. Duties without rights are slavery; rights without duties breed indolence and confusion.

We cannot follow their fortunes. Their sufferings were great and acute, for with the corruption by decay of their food, the want of proper housing accommodation, the inclemency of the weather, the weakness and debility of the women and children, within a year one half of the number died, and in the next spring Governor Carver succumbed, and his wife too.

Brownists. There are several items we have dropped by the way, in order not to interfere with the narrative, that we must now pick up. The charge against the Scrooby men was that they were Brownists or Barrowists. What do those terms mean? The names were given in contempt, and were hated and repudiated by those to whom they were applied. The Rev. Robert Browne (1550-1631) was a Rutlandshire man, of aristocratic connections and standing, a student at Cambridge, on fire for reform, apopular preacher; he went to Norwich and organized there a church on what are called Congregational lines, and afterwards went to Holland, preached, and wrote five books in favour of separation from the Church of England. Ardent, impulsive, with a fiery eloquence, he constantly got himself into trouble, and it is said was in thirty prisons. But in 1586 he became master of Stamford Grammar School, then was ordained by the Bishop of Peterborough, became Rector of Abchurch-cum-Thorpe, and so continued forty years, it is said, without preaching, probably suffering from nervous debility.

Barrowists. Henry Barrowe (1550-1593) was the son of a Norfolk squire, had been trained for the law, and lived a wild and wanton life. He turned into a London Church, and what he heard changed his life. Lord Bacon, who knew him, says, "he made a leap from a vain and libertine youth to a life of earnest purpose, and to association with one to whom religion was vital." One Sunday morning he went to a prison to visit the Rev. John Greenwood, an ordained clergyman, who had been cast into prison with twenty-five others for being present at a private conventicle. The Gaoler thereupon arrested Barrowe, and sent him to be examined by the Archbishop. Both he and Greenwood were sent to the Fleet prison, and kept five years, all the time writing books in favour of their principles. In 1593 both of them having had a little relaxation were re-apprehended, tried for writing seditious books, condemned and ordered to be executed on the morrow, taken to Tyburn, their necks were tied to a tree, then they were reprieved, and sent back to prison. A second time they were brought to the scaffold and reprieved, but on a third occasion, in April, 1593, they were hanged.

It is worth noting that shortly after William Brewster left Scrooby the father of (afterwards) Bishop Saunderson of Lincoln, who was the owner of Serlby and Blyth, was buried at Blyth. The Bishop was the author of many books, and wrote the preface to the second Prayer Book, beginning "It hath been the wisdom of the Church of England ever since the compiling of her Publick Liturgy to keep the mean between two extremes," etc. Some say the inimitable "General Thanksgiving," which every child should learn by heart, was written by him.

A Declaration. It is always pleasing to note when a man widens in his views by suffering, and develops by experience. This is remarkably fulfilled in the case of the Pilgrims. There is a document, a copy of which is in the State Paper Office, London, dated in 1618, and sent from the Church in Leyden to the Council in London, signed by John Robinson and William Brewster, in which they declare their assent to every article of the Church of England, their desire to keep spiritual communion in peace and practice in all lawful things. They declare their loyalty to the King. They acknowledge his Majesty's authority to appoint Bishops to oversee the churches, and to govern them civilly (secularly) according to the laws of the land, and their desire to give unto all Superiors due honour, to preserve the unity of the Spirit with all that fear God. (See copy, Dexter, page 568). Their assent to the XXXIX Articles would, of course, be given with the same mental reservation as all the sections of the Church of England exercise, and the right of the Bishops for interference is hedged by their civil limitation, beyond which is a sacred sphere into which no authority or official may enter; it being reserved for God and the conscience. They were not saints of the old picture type, with eyes on the ground or in the clouds, and an ornamental glory round their heads, but they were saints in their ardent devotion to duty, in their self-sacrifice, in their efforts to influence others for good, in their delight in holy communion with God in spirit, and with one another in fellowship.

The human element came in, of course, as it always does and will do. They had suffered so much, and aimed so high, that when they were comfortably settled in their new quarters they desired to keep themselves to themselves, and resented intrusion. They wanted neither the upsetting doctrines of the Early Quakers, nor the introduction of the Church of England form of service, lest episcopal rule should follow the use of the form, and so they became narrower than the heart of God. Women may become angelic, but men do not.


Apart from the Rev. E. Clyfton, a worthy man of whom little is recorded, there are three men who went from Scrooby, stand head and shoulders above the rest, and whose character and work it will pay us to study a little further, for the proper use of a biography, providing edification is our aim, is to see what we may admire and copy. Fortunately the three men present different aspects of character and work, and variety gives pleasure in both orchard and garden. They were the leaders in succession.

Brewster. William Brewster presents to us the type  of a well trained business man making the best of every station he was called upon to occupy. At Cambridge he makes the great decision of life for God and for usefulness, and in associating with good men. In the service of Mr. Secretary Davison his industry, thoroughness, reliability, politeness, and general bearing are such that confidence is begotten, and whatever valuables are entrusted to the master are handed for safe custody to the servant, who is treated as a son rather than an assistant. "Luck!" may be said. No, confidence is begotten by good work. Calamity comes to the master, and sympathy and helpfulness continue. The father's health is failing, and demands help, and off the son goes to duty and hard work, in effect exclaiming, "Blessed be drudgery when duty calls!" Active, cheerful, helpful, he does his work; is hospitable; becomes a leader in devotion to duty; and when the storm comes is a tower of strength and resourcefulness. When others wept, he worked. in Holland after a period of poverty and suffering, for his money was spent, his attainments were found to be such that he was employed in giving to students lessons in English and Latin and "many gentlemen, both Danes and Germans, resorted to him, some of them being great men's sons." Later on he joins with Thomas Brewer in printing and publishing books for which prosecution follows. When it is decided to go to America—a minority going first, Brewster must go with them. For thirty-six years he bears his burden with the rest in weal and woe. Through stress and storm he keeps on his way. "Living many times," says Bradford," without bread or corn many months together, having many times nothing but fish, and often wanting that, also; and drank nothing but water many years together. * * * * "Yet he lived by the blessing of God in health unto very old age, and besides that he would labour in the fields as long as he was able, yet when the church had no other minister he taught twice every Sabbath, and that both powerfully and profitably, to the great contentment of the hearers, and their comfortable edification. Yea, many were brought to God by his ministry. He did more in their behalf in a year than many that have their hundreds a year do in all their lives." Bradford adds: ''He had a singular good gift in prayer * * * In the humble confession of sin, and begging the mercies of God in Christ for the pardon thereof. He always thought it better for ministers to pray oftener, and divide their prayers, than to be long and tedious in the same;" a view we shall heartily endorse.

Here is a very pleasant combination of qualities: He was wise and discreet and well spoken, having a grave deliberate utterance; of a very cheerful spirit, and very sociable and pleasant among his friends, of an humble and modest mind, of a peaceable disposition, undervaluing himself and his abilities, and sometimes overvaluing others." And so he continued till his work was done, and fourscore years had passed, when he laid him down and died. He did not keep his bed till the last day, when he died without a pang, on April 10th— 20th, 1643.

John Robinson. The lesson to be gamed from the life of the Rev. John Robinson, M.A., is more difficult to deal with than either of the others; not because of any defect in the man or his life, but because of our prejudices—conscientious scruples sounds better. Some persons have little use for parsons, and others almost worship them. We carefully distinguish between clergymen and ministers. Our esteem is measured by whether they belong to "our Church," or otherwise. Now we have to look at John Robinson as the devoted, helpful, Christian minister. We will not concern ourselves with his controversial writings, nor with his views as to the constitution and government of a Christian Church. Those matters we, the common folk, will leave to others, and concern ourselves with the lessons we can learn from the man, his character and work.

He was born at Sturton-le-Steeple, about a dozen miles south-east of Scrooby, and at seventeen went to Cambridge, entered Corpus Christi College in 1592, took the full course, graduated, secured a fellowship, and took orders in the Established church. A struggle now took place in his mind, leading him to relinquish his position. Referring to this period he says, "Had not the truth been in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, I had never broken those bonds of flesh and blood wherein I was so strongly tied." He said he was forced by subscription, etc., or he would never have left the church.

Is it not a singular coincidence that in the very year in which the tercentenery is commemorated the Church of England should have obtained from Parliament, by the Life and Liberty Movement, the power to remedy some of the evils from which she suffers, and because of the existence of which Robinson resigned his position in the church?

In the Register of Marriages at Greasley Church is the following entry: "Mr. John Robinson and Mistress Bridget Whyte 15 Feb. 1603." As there are fifty other marriages recorded round about that time without the prefix "Mr." and "Mistress," it would seem to indicate some importance in social position.

Mr. Robinson afterwards became a minister in Norfolk, then in Norwich, where he was described as "a man utterly reverenced of all the city for the grace of God in him," and where the people assembling were being harassed by fines and imprisonment, he returned to his native district (query: about 1604) and joined himself to the congregation at Scrooby, and became a colleague of Mr. Clyfton (1606).

He went with the Pilgrims to Holland, where the church under his care gradually increased until it numbered nearly three hundred communicants besides adherents. (Brown 125).

"We are," he writes, "knit together as a body in a most strict and sacred bond and covenant of the Lord, of the violation whereof we make great conscience, and by virtue whereof we do hold ourselves strictly tied to all love each others good, and of the whole by everyone, and so mutually." Here is definite helpfulness, but no exclusiveness, for another quotation adds: "For myself thus I believe in my heart before God and profess with my tongue, and that before the world, that I have one and the same faith, hope, spirit—baptism and Lord which I had in the Church of England, and none other.'' Nor was he afflicted with ministerial exclusiveness, for "he trusts that the Lord will give courage to his people, and stand for the liberty of lay preaching among the set of liberties wherewith Christ has made his people free."

Here is a note of an open mind ready to receive more light. He said "he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of His Holy Word." Here is a note of reality in life: "A man hath in truth so much religion as he hath between himself and the Lord in secret, and no more. At the same time God is not partial as men are, nor regards that church and chamber religion towards Him which is not accompanied in the house and street with loving kindness and mercy and all goodness towards men."

There is one aspect of his character and work which appears particularly estimable, and that is his helpfulness in social and business matters. "For beside his singular ability in divine things," says Bradford, "he was also very able to give direction in civil affairs, and to foresee dangers and inconveniences by which means he was very helpful to their outer estates, and so was every way a common father unto them." His letter to those who first sailed from Holland is a model of wise counsels and statesmanlike cautions.

Oh! it is fine when a man who has the cure of souls knows more of his Bible, and can open out its hidden truths to his people, and lives nearer to God than they, and can by the power of sympathy draw them like a loadstone a little higher up towards God and goodness, truth and righteousness, to the love of all the wonders of nature, the sanctifying of the common duties of life, and the happiness of usefulness. Fellowship is the hope of the world.

Robinson wrote sixty-two non-controversial essays, and died in 1625, after eight days illness. He had remained with the majority in Holland, intending to follow as soon as the way was open, but he was called to a higher service. Many University professors and eminent citizens gave honour to his funeral.

Bradford. William Bradford was of a different type to William Brewster. In mind and heart they were as father and son, for there were twenty-two or twenty-three years between their ages. "My dear and loving friend," Bradford calls him. The best use we can make of Bradford's life and character appears to be to regard him thus: Here was a young man born and bred to farming, whose education was limited, but who determined to make the best of life by using the wisest means. His first great decision was for God and good people. Nothing could shake him from that, although the cost was great. His father had died when he was only two years of age, and he must carve out his own path. He was of delicate constitution, frugal, industrious, and studious. He was fond of his Bible. When he got to Holland, having shared all the dangers and difficulties of the way, he had to get his living by obtaining work as a fustian worker and as a silk dyer and worker. This he continued, but in his spare hours, instead of wasting his time in pastimes, he determined that he would gain knowledge. He learned to speak and think in Dutch as readily as in English. He could manage to talk in French. He mastered Latin and Greek, but studied most in Hebrew. He was well skilled in history, antiquity, philosophy. "But," says Cotton Mather, "the crown of all was his holy, prayerful, watchful, and spiritual walk with God."

What was the good of a young man in his circumstances striving for so much knowledge?" some may say. "Much every way," is the reply. He developed his power of thinking. He broadened his mind. He had a much wider outlook. He was of far greater use to his fellow men. Shakespeare tells us,

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune,"

and fortune is not money, but usefulness, for which there must be a preparation and developed capacity. When John Carver died, he having by reason of his seniority been chosen as the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, a successor must be appointed. William Brewster's hands were full, and the choice unanimously fell on William Bradford, and thirty-six years wise administration, nearly always as Governor, with elections annually, justified the choice. He set about constructing defences against a sudden attack by wild Indian tribes, and then negotiated treaties on just terms with several of the tribes for mutual and equal trade and defence. He presided at all Council Meetings and as their magistrate judged all cases. He declined election a third time, but was prevailed on to continue with the assistance of a Council of four others, and they gave him a double vote. His work was many-sided, for he was magistrate and policeman, store-keeper, treasurer, overseer, foreman, and for several years the hand labour would be as hard and continuous as the exercise of the brain, yet through it all his conduct secured support.

A part of his work would be regarded by us as meddlesome interference, but the Pilgrims believed that discipline was of vital importance in both Church and State in order to secure development of character and efficiency. We go to the other extreme, and believing, as is vulgarly expressed, that "Jack is as good as his master, and rather better," we resent control, and sacrifice efficiency in listening to the voice of untrained and irresponsible chatter.

In these days when it is thought desirable that everything should belong to the community, and be shared alike, it is interesting to learn that the Colonists tried it under the most favourable conditions, for all of them were industrious and sober men, but Bradford shows how it was a failure, for it led to discontent, it diminished output, it bred indifference. "That all should be on an equality to have alike and do alike, and should think themselves one as good as another." Bradford says, "did much to diminish and take off that mutual respect which it is good to preserve in a community."

He wrote several books, one being entitled "Dialogues," and another a "History of the Plymouth Plantation." For the latter we owe to him a deep debt of gratitude, for it records much of value that would otherwise be unknown. His work being done, he in 1657 died, filled it is said "with ineffable consolations, the good Spirit of God giving him a pledge of the first-fruits of his eternal glory."

When William Bradford died the Council passed an Act excluding Quakers, and subsequently adopted more stringent measures for securing exclusiveness by penalties. A long time further must pass before equal religious liberty could be understood and granted.

A Retrospect. Three hundred years have passed and gone since the events we have been considering occurred, and much water has since then passed down the Ryton, the Idle, the Trent, to the sea. Let it pass. But we have been dealing with men and women. Surely they have something to say to us. The man is a benefactor who makes a chart showing where the current is safe, or where shallows or hidden rocks are to be avoided. Has the story of the Pilgrims any message to us? Let us see.

We may at once confess that we shall not gain by reading the controversial writings of three hundred years ago. The outlook was then different to ours now. The light of the sun was the same, but was seen from a different angle. The language in which men then expressed their views was such as we should not use. Things we regard as harmless they viewed with fear. Every century has its own sphere of thought and mode of expression.

Nor shall we gain by asking such questions as, Were the Pilgrims justified in their steps for separation from the Church of England? or were they wise in taking them? To their own Master they stood or fell, and the testing point then and still is loyalty to God, to truth so far as known, to righteousness of life, to self-sacrifice They gave their all. Are we equally loyal '.'

There is one aspect in our retrospect that is not pleasing. The Pilgrims sought to have a church as perfect as they could frame it; a kind of holy city on earth, and in the three hundred years that have since passed scores of others have by varied means sought for the same. Some by definitions of doctrines, or by ceremonies, or by forms of church government, and otherwise, but to-day every church (except those that have a monoply of grace, sunshine, and other free gifts of God) is bemoaning the fact that the masses have drifted away from attendance, that the congregations and schools have dwindled, and correspondingly their influence has been curtailed. No longer is uniformity insisted on. Liberty has been secured, but vitality is weakened. Other flowers than the rose may grow in the garden, which may be adorned with the pansy, the tulip, the lily, for variety, not uniformity, is the law of nature, revelation, providence, grace. But if the Church is the garden, it is largely forsaken. What then is the remedy ? Increased powers for self-government on the one hand, and amalgamations or co-operations on the other may do much good. But what is of far greater importance is that we, the common people, should catch the spirit of the Pilgrims, for they were in dead earnest, or rather in living earnestness, and steadfast to death. They laid their all on the altar of God. Religion was to them their vital air. We, the common people, have largely relaxed our efforts in definite work for God and the people. We prefer games, and picture shows, our ease or entertainment, and the remedies will not be found in Church organization, in denominational amalgamation, in the inter-changes of pulpits. A revival of religion will take place when we, the common people, are prepared like the Pilgrims to live for a purpose strenuous lives, seeking not merely our own advantage or pleasure, but, like them, making personal sacrifices in promoting the good of others, or going further back to those early days when they considered not their lives dear to them so that they could win the approval of Him who became poor that we might be rich, and who went about not merely preaching the gospel, but healing, giving sight, liberty, comfort, joy.

Let us widen our vision. Scrooby Manor House stands as a mark of a great expansion. From here went not only Brewster, Robinson, and Bradford, but Sir Edwyn Sandys and his brother George, who devoted themselves to Colonial establishment, were intimately connected with it and with Southwell old palace. Virginia began to exist in 1606, Newfoundland was planted in 1610, New England was settled by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. The Spanish power had been crippled (1588) and Sir Walter Raleigh was exploring abroad, while Shakespeare was writing at home. From little England was going about a body of men to form that grand institution we call the British Empire, which now includes over fourteen million square miles, having an estimated population of four hundred and forty-five millions, while from the small beginnings indicated the United States have grown to forty-eight States and great territories, having a population of over one hundred millions. What does all this mean? Is there here a great purpose? a destiny? There is certainly a great privilege, and a great responsibility.

Now let us glance at the displacement. The great Spanish Empire with its horrible Holy Inquisition have both crumbled, as have the mighty empires of Turkey, Russia, Austria, and Germany. The most devilish conspiracy against liberty, right, law, and order that the world has ever seen has fallen with a mighty crash. Is it too much to hope that War has received a fatal wound? The grinding poverty and ignorance of millions at home is passing, while the earth is opening its treasures of natural development, and mineral exploration abroad. There never was such an opening for enterprise, for mission work, for educational expansion. The brotherhood of man in all nations, because of the Fatherhood of God, was never so much preached as now.

BUT! Howbeit! The "butt hinges" turn the door, and we see a vision that staggers a thoughtful mind, for the devil of selfishness rules in millions of hearts, and in a variety of forms, and the tyranny of a multitude may be worse than that of an autocrat. Any fool can pull a building down, but it requires wisdom, patience, perseverance, self-sacrifice to build up a palace for the people, great and firm.

King George V.—May he live for ever !—in reply to a deputation which recently waited upon him to present a loyal address said, "To you who claim a historical connection with the men of the Mayflower it must be peculiarly moving that the descendants of those who left England to win freedom for themselves should return to defend the liberties of Europe and the world." The King always says the right thing. The Mayflower is the hawthorn that grew in Scrooby and was carried as they supposed on "a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia." It grew, and adorns the land, and so it comes to pass that whereas Scrooby stood for Separation, now it stands for Union, and that not merely of churches to bless humanity, but of the union of two mighty powers who by wise co-operation may save the world. Privilege comes to nations as well as to individuals, and with privilege responsibility. If England and the United States will now step forward and lead the world in a League of Nations, the horrors of war may be less frequent, the resources of the earth may be developed; men may live in quietness with law and order; knowledge may chase ignorance and superstition; the weak peoples may become strong, mutual helpfulness may take the place of distrust, hatred and violence, and instead of distraction and destruction the desert may blossom as the rose, joy and gladness may be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.