Of Plimoth Plantation

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

1[st] Chapter

It is well known unto the godly, and judicious; how ever since the first breaking out of the light of the gospel, in our Honourable Nation of England (which was the first of nations, whom the Lord adorned therewith, after that gross darkness of popery which had covered, & overspread the Christian world) what wars, & oppositions ever since Satan hath raised, maintained, and continued against the saints,1 from time, to time, in one sort, or other.2 Sometimes by bloody death & Cruel torments; other whiles Imprisonments, banishments, & 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, & beauty.3 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, & barbarous persecutions of the Heathen Emperours, he could not stop, & subvert the course of the Gospel; but that it speedily overspread, with a wonderful Celerity, the then best-known parts of the world.4 He then began to sow Errours, heresies, and wonderful dissensions amongst the professours5 themselves (working upon their pride, & 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, & heart-burnings, Schisms, with other horrible confusions. But Satan took occasion ^&^ advantage thereby to foist in a number of vile ceremonies, with many unprofitable Canons, & decrees which have since been as snares, to many poor, & peaceable souls, even to this day.6 So as in the ancient times, the persecutions [2] by the heathen, & their Emperours; was not greater than of the Christians one against other. The Arians, & other their complices, against the orthodox, & true Christians. Lib. 2, Chap. 22.As witnesseth Socrates in his 2[nd] book.7 His words are these; “The violence truly” (saith he) “was no less than that of old, practised towards the Christians when they were compelled & drawn to sacrifice to Idols; for many endured sundry kinds of torment, often rackings, & 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, & never saw their country again,” &c.8

The like method Satan hath seemed to hold in these later times, since the truth began to spring, & spread after the great defection made by Antichrist that man of sin.9

For to let pass the Infinite examples in sundry nations, and several places of the world; and Instance in our own. Whenas that old Serpent could not prevail by those fiery flames, & other his cruel Tragedies which he (by his Instruments) put in ure,10 everywhere in the days of Queen Mary, & before.11 He then began another kind of war, & went more closely to work; not only to oppugn, but even to ruinate & destroy the kingdom of Christ, by more Secret & Subtile means. By kindling the flames of contention, and sowing the seeds of discord, & bitter Emnity amongst the professors (& 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, & outward regiment of the kingdom of Christ; by which those holy doctrines should be conserved, & true piety maintained amongst the saints, & people of God.12

Acts, & Monuments, pag. 1587, Edition 2Mr. Foxe recordeth, how that besides those worthy martyrs & confessors which were burned in Queen Mary’s ^days^ & otherwise tormented, “Many (both students, & others) fled out of the land, to the number of 800. And became Several congregations. At Wesel, Frankfort, Basil, Emden, Marburg, Strasburg, & Geneva,” &c.13 Amongst whom (but especially those at Frankfort), began that bitter war of contention, & persecution about the Ceremonies, & service-book, and other popish and Antichristian stuff. The plague of England to this day (which are like the high places in Israel, which the prophets cried out against, & were their ruin). [3] 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 pretences, for their own ends, & advancements) sought as stiffly, to continue, maintain, & defend. As appeareth by the discourse thereof published in print, Anno 1575 (a book that deserves better to be known, & considered).14

The one side laboured to have the right worship of God, & discipline of Christ, Established in the church, according to the simplicity of the Gospel; without the mixture of men’s Inventions. And to have, & to be ruled by the laws of God’s word; dispensed in those offices, & by those officers of pastors, Teachers, & Elders,15 &c., according to the Scriptures. The other party (though under many colours, & pretences) endeavored to have the Episcopal dignity (after the popish manner) with their large power, & Jurisdiction, still retained; with all those Courts, Canons, & ceremonies, together with all such Livings, revenues, & subordinate officers, with other such means, as formerly upheld their Antichristian greatness. And enabled them with lordly, & tyrannous power, to persecute the poor servants of God. This contention was so great, as neither the honour of God, the Common persecution; nor the mediation of Mr. Calvin, & 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, & ungodlily; yet prelate-like) some of their chief opposers, with rebellion, & high treason against the Emperour, & other such crimes.16

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, & other promotions, according to their aims, and desires. That Inveterate hatred against the holy discipline of Christ in his Church17 hath continued to this day. Insomuch that for fear [4] It should prevail, all plots, & devices have been used to keep it out, Incensing the Queen, & state against it as dangerous for the commonwealth; And that it was most needful that the fundamental points of Religion should be preached in those Ignorant, & superstitious times; And to win the weak & Ignorant they might retain diverse harmless Ceremonies, and though it were to be wished that diverse 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, & 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, & deed if they would not submit to their ceremonies, & become slaves to them, & their popish trash, which have no ground in the word of God, but are relics of that man of sin.18 And the more the light of the gospel grew, the more they urged their subscriptions to these corruptions, so as (notwithstanding all their former pretences, & fair colours) 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; Eusebius, Lib. 6, Chap. 42.they opprobriously, & most Injuriously, gave unto, & Imposed upon them, that name of puritans; which is said the Novatians (out of pride) did assume & take unto themselves.19 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, & otherways. On the other hand, sin hath been countenanced; Ignorance, profaneness, & Atheism ^Increased, &^ the papists encouraged to hope again for a day.

Pag. 421.This made that holy man Mr. Perkins cry out in his exhortation to repentance, upon Zeph. 2. “Religion” (saith he) “hath been amongst us this 35 years; but the more it is published, the more it is contemned, & reproached of many,” &c. “Thus not profaneness, nor wickedness; but Religion itself is a byword, a mockingstock; & a matter of reproach; so that in England at this day, the man, or woman that begins to profess Religion, & to serve God, must resolve with himself to sustain [5] mocks, & Injuries even as though he lived amongst the Enemies of Religion.”20 And this common experience hath confirmed, & made too apparent. [3v]21

But that I may come more near my Intendment; whenas by the travail,25 & diligence of some godly, & zealous preachers, and God’s blessing on their labours; as in other places of the land, so in the North parts, many became Enlightened by the word of God; and had their Ignorance & sins discovered unto them, and began by his grace to reform their lives, and make conscience of their ways.26 The work of God was no sooner manifest in them; but presently they were both scoffed, and scorned by the profane multitude, and the minsters urged with the yoke of Subscription, or else must be silenced; and the poor people were so vexed with apparitors, & pursuivants,27 & 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, & 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 & beggarly Ceremonies were unlawful; but ^also^ that the lordly, & tyrannous ^power^ of the prelates, ought not to be Submitted unto; which thus (contrary to the freedom of the Gospel) would load ^& burden^ men’s consciences; and by their compulsive power make a profane mixture of persons, & things in the worship of God. And that their offices & callings; courts, & canons, &c., were unlawful, and Antichristian; being such as have no warrant in the word of God; but the same that were used in popery, & still retained. Of which a famous author thus writeth in his Dutch commentaries.28 At the coming of King James into Emmanuel van Meteren, lib. 25, fol. 119.England; “The new king” (saith he) “found there established the reformed Religion, according to the reformed religion of King Edward the 6[th], Retaining, or keeping still the spiritual state of the Bishops, &c. After the old The reformed churches shapen much nearer the primitive pattern than England, for they cashiered the Bishops with all theirmanner, much varying, & differing from the reformed churches, in Scotland, France, & the Netherlands, Emden, Geneva,” &c., “whose Reformation is cut, or shapen much nearer the first Christian churches, as it was used in the Apostles’ times.”29 [6] 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 Antichristian 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 hisCourts, Canons, and Ceremonies, at the first; and left them amongst the popish trash to which they perta[ined]. ways, made known, or to be made known unto them (according to their best endeavours), whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.30 And that it cost them something this ensuing history will declare.

These people became 2 distinct bodies, or churches; & in regard of distance of place did congregate severally; for they were of sundry towns, ^&^ villages, some in Nottinghamshire, some of Lincolnshire and some of Yorkshire, where they border nearest together.31 In one of these churches (besides others of note) was Mr. John Smith, a man of able gifts, & a good preacher; who afterwards was chosen their pastor.32 But these afterwards falling into some Errours in the Low Countries, there (for the most part) buried themselves, & their names.

But in this other church (which must be the subject of our discourse), besides other worthy men, was Mr. Richard Clyfton a grave & Reverend preacher, who by his pains & diligence had done much good, and under God had been a means of the conversion of many.33 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.34 Also Mr. William Brewster a reverent man, who afterwards was chosen an Elder of the church and Lived with them till old age.35

But after these things, they could not long continue in any peaceable condition; but were hunted, & 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, & clapped up in prison, others had their houses beset & watched night and day, & hardly36 escaped their hands; and the most were fain to fly, & leave their houses, & habitations, and the means of their livelihood. Yet these & 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 & spirit. Yet seeing themselves thus molested [7] 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, & other parts of the Land had been Exiled, & persecuted for the same cause, & were gone thither, and lived at Amsterdam, & in other places of the Land.37 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 & 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 & 1608. Of which more at large in the next chapter.