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$artmrto College Iffirarp 


Oae half the income from this Legacy, which waa re- 
ceived In 1880 under the will of 

of Waltham, Massachusetts, it to be expended for books 
for the College Library. The other half of the income 
it devoted to scholarships in Harvard University for the 
benefit of descendants of 

who died at Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1686. In the 
absence of such descendants, other persons are eligible 
to the scholarships. The will requires that this announce- 
ment shall be made in every book added to the Library 
under its provisions. 

1 ■ <>*':,■ V ' 

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John Robinson // 

Wjt pilgrim pastor 




New York ftf)* pijjrittt %tm Chicago 

(AS 1^778*, ///j 

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Copyright, 1903 
Bt Ozora S. Davis 






My Teacher* in the Hartford Theological Seminary from 
1891 to 1894 


Principles become attractive through their illus- 
tration in human lives; and any movement, whether 
religious or political, which is founded on great 
principles, is fortunate if it has a commanding per- 
sonality associated with its initiation. In a Wash- 
ington one sees embodied that which was noblest in 
the American Revolution, and in a similar way a 
Luther or a Wesley is typical and illustrative of the 
great movements associated with their names. In 
studying their lives we best understand the causes 
for which they labored, and gain most of inspiration 
for ourselves. Congregationalism has no one man 
who stands so supreme in the story of its beginnings 
as Wesley in those of Methodism or as Knox in the 
leadership of the Scotch Reformation. It bears the 
name of no single compelling leader as Lutheranism 
does, for none of its founders stood in quite the rela- 
tionship to it that Luther bore to the German Refor- 
mation. But if it has had, thus, no one leader of 
such conspicuous preeminence, Congregationalism 
has had its founders, its martyrs and its exiles, to 
whom it delights to pay its reverence; and of these 
early worthies none was more attractive in his char- 
acter, more wide-reaching in his influence, or more 
deserving of lasting remembrance, than John Robin- 
son. Several of the leaders of early Congregational- 


ism were men in whom allegiance to the truths for 
which they labored and sacrificed was associated 
with intolerance and a considerable degree of unchar- 
itableness of judgment towards opponents, faults of 
temper, largely explainable, indeed, by reason of the 
strenuous and unequal contest in which they were 
engaged and the bitterness of the opposition which 
they encountered. One of the founders of Congre- 
gationalism, Robert Browne, made his peace with 
the enemies of the principles for which he for a time 
strenuously contended, and died repudiated by early 
' Congregationalists, who refused to be called by his 
name or to be considered his disciples. 

No such imperfections meet us in the character of 
John Robinson. Broad-minded, charitable for his 
age, far-visioned, he stood firmly for the truths for 
which he endured exile, and yet thought charitably 
and kindly of those who differed from him in belief. 
He was a strong, sweet, earnest, simple, brave, self- 
sacrificing pastor. In him early Separatist Congre- 
gationalism appeared at its best, and in studying him 
one sees revealed what was truest and noblest in its 
principles. Nor is it simply the charm of his own 
personal character that makes Robinson attractive 
to the student of his career. He, beyond any other 
leader of early Congregationalism, was the moulding 
force in the training of the founders of Plymouth. 
From the time when he first threw in his lot with the 
Congregational worshipers at Scrooby, probably in 


1604, till the day on which he bade farewell to the 
emigrants about to sail on the "Speedwell" for their 
long voyage to the new world, his was the most 
potent influence in the spiritual education of the 
Pilgrim Church. A man of ripe scholarship, a grad- 
uate himself of the University of Cambridge, and a 
respected, if humble, member of the community of 
scholars gathered about the University at Ley den, 
he was well equipped to be the intellectual leader 
of the company of which he was pastor. But his 
moulding influence upon them was even more that 
of the temper and the spirit than of the intellect, for 
the personal qualities of Robinson became through 
his example and teaching largely those of the Pil- 
grim congregation itself. To have been under his 
ministry was, to such men as Bradford, a training in 
firmness of purpose, in single-minded devotion to 
truth, and, above all, in kindliness of feeling. In this 
way he helped to make the story of the beginnings at 
Plymouth one in which all lovers of New England 

Though Robinson never beheld the new land to 
which he sent so large a part of the congregation that 
he had guided and whither he himself earnestly de- 
sired to go, and though he died in the city of his 
Dutch exile before the colony across the sea had fully 
demonstrated its power to live in its new environ- 
ment, he was, as truly as any man who crossed the 
Atlantic, one of the fathers of New England. One 


may justly say of him that if we reckon importance 
by influence, by encouragement of associates, by the 
spirit which he instilled into a great enterprise, no 
other founder of the Pilgrim colony has higher claims 
to grateful remembrance than this leader who never 
set foot upon its soil. Others courageously executed 
the task for which his patient ministry had done 
much to fit them; and the inspiration to their en- 
deavor was largely his work. As such, whether 
viewed from the standpoint of one interested in 
the development of a branch of the Christian 
Church, or of one investigating the beginnings of 
American colonization and political life, the career 
of John Robinson is of permanent significance. 

Robinson's importance has long been recognized 
by writers on the beginnings of New England or the 
story of Congregationalism. His works were col- 
lected and printed and his life made the subject of a 
brief biographical sketch by Robert Ashton. 1 Dr. 
Henry M. Dexter presented his portrait at consid- 
erable length in his monumental volume on the 
beginnings of Congregationalism. 2 But not a little 
remains for the patient gleaner in this field, and 
Dr. Davis' investigations and discussions show in 
how large a measure the life of this noble Congre- 
gational leader still may reward the study de- 

1 "The Works of John Robinson." London. 1851. 
* " The Congregationalism of the last Three Hundred Years, as Seen 
in its Literature." New York. 1880. 


voted to it, and is still fruitful in lessons of perman- 
ent value as inspiration for self-sacrificing Christian 



This study of a personality rich in significance to 
the religious history of England and America has 
been carried on in the midst of a pastorate, and has 
formed for five years an avocation of increasing 
profit and delight. It rests upon an investigation 
of the sources in Robinson's preserved writings and 
in available contemporary literature. The writer's 
purpose has been to set the living man in true rela- 
tionship to his own time, and to estimate his real 
contribution to the history of the church with which 
his name is most closely associated. 

It is not an easy task to vitalize a controversy 
which has been dead for more than two centuries. 
And it is difficult for us to realize the intensity with 
which such a bygone issue could assert its para- 
mount importance to the mind of one who thought 
and acted so long ago. We must awaken imagina- 
tion before we can set ourselves sympathetically into 
the first quarter of the seventeenth century. The 
writer sincerely hopes that he has not introduced so 
many details that the imagination of any reader of 
this biography will be clogged through their excess. 
There are many events in the story of John Robin- 
son's life which we have been unable to rescue from 
oblivion; yet the main lines along which his life 
moved are clear. Behind all these controversies, 



now forgotten and dusty, is a real man. We have to 
do with a character who struggles and grows. Many 
specific details that concern dates and places are 
obscure; the conflict and triumph of the living man 
are plainly evident. This person we have sought to 
bring forward into the light. 

Without the assistance and encouragement of Rev. 
W. H. Cobb, d.d., Librarian of the Congregational 
Library in Boston, Massachusetts, and Professor 
Williston Walker of Yale University, the work 
never could have been completed. This debt the 
writer gratefully acknowledges here. His heartiest 
thanks are also extended to Mr. Herbert R. Gibbs 
and Miss Sarah L. Patrick for their invaluable aid 
in the preparation and publication of the manu- 

Nbwtonvillb. Massachusetts. 

July, 1908. 


Chapter Pages 

I The Anglican Reformation and its Results 

in the Year 1606 1 

II Separatist Congregations in Gainsborough 


III The Life of John Robinson until He Joins 

the Separatist Congregation in Scrooby 52 

IV The Emigration of the Scrooby Congregation 

to Leydbn and their Life there . . 79 
V The Separation as Defined and Defended by 

Robinson 106 

VI Settlement in Leyden .... 131 
VII The Champion of Calvinism . . . .146 
VIII The Great Controversy Concerning Fellow- 
ship 163 

IX Church Polity in Leyden and Amsterdam . 187 

X Prosperous Years in Leyden . . . 203 

XI The Movement to America .... 225 

XII The So-Called "Farewell Address " . . 241 

XIII The "Essays" 265 

XIV The Last Years in Leyden .... 301 
XV The Man and His Place in History . . 336 





In any effort to understand a person in history 
two factors must be reckoned with. One of these 
is the world in which the person lived. A child is 
born into a social order; he comes into it bringing 
with him positive tendencies which shape his char- 
acter and influence his choices. This inheritance 
is a part of his environment. The whole sphere 
in which he finds himself also acts upon his 
choices, and enters into the entire process of his 
growth. Hereditary tendencies and changing sur- 
roundings are necessary keys if we are to open 
the doors which allow us to enter the secret 
chambers of a person's soul. Something far more 
important than these is necessary, however. When 
one knows the ancestry and the times of Luther or 
of Lincoln one is far from ready to attempt to 
interpret the man to us. Every personality is 
acted upon; but he acts. There is in him a mighty 
energy of personal and peculiar force by means of 
which he impresses himself upon his time. This 
mighty fact of the free spirit of man, which oftea 


defies all the laws of heredity and environment, so 
far at least as they have yet been framed, is the 
supreme factor in the effort to understand a per- 
son. The last detail in regard to the inherited 
traits of John Robinson might be known ; the 
conditions of life and thought in that far-away 
time when he lived might be comprehended; and 
still we might be far from an adequate understand- 
ing of the man himself. We should still need to 
enter into the motives which he shaped for himself 
to control his action. We should require an insight 
into the ideals toward the realization of which he 
strove. We should need to see the real man acting 
upon his time with something which seems almost 
like creative energy. 

To reach this deepest-hidden but most impor- 
tant factor the necessary way of approach is 
through intimate knowledge of the world in which 
he lived, as acting upon him and acted upon by 
him. The first task before us, therefore, is to 
attempt to set the life of John Robinson, who is 
commonly known as the "Pastor of the Pilgrim 
Fathers," closely into its vital connection with the 
movements of religious thought and action in 
England and Holland between the years 1575 and 
1625. This will not be so difficult or complex an 
effort as might seem at first thought. Robinson's 


life was bound up very closely with one religious 
movement. He was absorbed in one line of activ- 
ity. He lived in the radical movements of the 
Anglican Reformation. 

We must sketch briefly, then, the growth of the 
Protestant Reformation in England until the acces- 
sion of King James I, in 1603, and also outline the 
general plan of organization assumed by the Church 
of England when the policy of this king had become 
fixed, say in the year 1606. 

England was peculiarly adapted to the spread 
of the Protestant movement. The claims of Rome 
had never been so thoroughly acknowledged in the 
island kingdom as they had been on the continent. 
The Bible had been translated early, and was read 
extensively both in churches and among the com- 
mon people. The English, too, were by nature 
peculiarly loyal to their monarch in the matter of 
all claims which he might make for freedom from 
external authority. When King Henry VIII in- 
herited the kingdom which his father had organ- 
ized with consummate skill in the interests of 
absolutism, he found everything at the feet of the 
crown except the Church. The reorganization 
of the Church which was effected during his reign 
was really made possible by this independent 
temper of the English people. And the Act 


of Supremacy, passed in November, 1534, by 
which the king was declared to be " the only 
supreme head in earth of the Church of Eng- 
land, called Anglicana Ecclesia, ,; * did not 
involve any radical changes in doctrine or deeply 
concern the Roman Catholic subjects in the king's 
realm. For Henry VIII could not be called a 
Protestant. He won his title "Defender of the 
Faith" by an attack on Luther. It is a rather 
grim commentary on the general inconsistency of 
the situation that, by the royal sanction, Protes- 
tants who denied Roman Catholic doctrine, and 
Roman Catholics who denied the royal supremacy 
were burned or hanged at the same time. The Six 
Articles, passed, after a discussion in which the 
king himself participated, by Convocation and 
Parliament in 1539, sanctioned the doctrine of 
transubstantiation ; declared that communion in 
both bread and wine is not necessary to all per- 
sons; affirmed that priests might not marry; that 
vows of chastity and widowhood must be observed ; 
that private masses were to be continued; and that 
auricular confession was expedient and necessary. 
So far as there was a party whose policy was 
to advance still farther along lines of Protestant 

1 The Act is in Gee and Hardy, "Documents Illustrative of English 
Church History," London, Macmillan, 1896, pp. 243,244. I shall cite 
his collection hereafter as "G. & H. " 


doctrine, it was not permanently successful in its 
efforts under the leadership of Thomas Cromwell. 
But on the accession of King Edward VI (1547- 
1553), the Protestant movement found a larger 
possibility for supremacy opening before it. An 
Act was passed January 21, 1549, in which the 
use of a book of Common Prayer was prescribed 
for the whole realm. l This secured uniformity in 
respect ^ to a book. The form enjoined was 
modeled more closely after those used in Sarum 
than according to any other use. It was a most 
important .event for the history of the Anglican 
Church, 2 and marks the growth of Protestant 
influences in its development. These influences 
were exerted not only in the direction of polity, 
but also upon the formal doctrine of the Church. 
This deliberate attempt to get rid of obnoxious 
Roman Catholic doctrine was persistent from the 
time of the death of King Henry VIII. 3 In a 
Second Act 4 of Uniformity in 1552, a changed 
form of Common Prayer was imposed upon the 
people. This act also prescribed penalties against 

• >SeeG.6H.pp. 358ff. 

•See Wakeman, "An Introduction to the History of the Church of 
England. " Rivington, London, 1897, p. 274 ff . 

* "The Condition of Morals and Religious Belief in the Reign of Ed- 
ward VI. " By the Rev. Nicholas Pocock. English Historical Review. 
July, 1895, pp. 417-445. 

« Q. & H.. 369 ff . 


all laymen who should refuse to attend services 
at which the form was used. Thus action against 
recusants began. 

Under the lead of Cranmer, meantime, a con- 
fession! of faith, catechism and primer were being 
compiled. Forty-two articles of faith were pub- 
lished by royal authority in 1553. These subse- 
quently became the Thirty-Nine Articles of the 
Anglican Church. 

All these changes, however, rested upon most 
insecure foundations. The mass of the people were 
not ready for any radical alterations in the doc- 
trine or polity of the Church, and when King Ed- 
ward VI was succeeded by Queen Mary in 1553, 
an intense Roman Catholic reaction was brought 
about quite easily. The first proclamation of the 
queen, published August 18, 1553, l announced the 
faith which she held, and expressed the wish, 
which every one knew was her will, that her 
loving subjects should quietly embrace it. This 
proclamation was quickly followed by her first 
Act of Repeal, 2 in which acts passed during the 
reign of King Edward VI were repealed, and the 
religious constitution of the realm was practically 
restored to that obtaining when King Henry VIII 
died in 1547. 

1 G. & H., p. 373 ff. * Ibid., p. 377 ff. 


But the queen did not pause here. Late in 1554 
her second Act of Repeal 1 was passed. This 
restored the ecclesiastical conditions of the year 
1529. England was a Roman Catholic country. 
Protestant heretics were exiled, imprisoned and 
executed. It seems, very unlikely that there were 
any congregations organized according to the 
model of King Edward VI, which maintained 
their existence in England secretly during the 
reign of Queen Mary. The line of development 
which we must follow is to be taken up in those 
cities of the continent to which the Protestant 
leaders and members of their congregations fled 
during the Roman Catholic reaction effected by 
the queen. 

Following out this line of development, we find 
ourselves concerned with the action of one of these 
congregations which was composed of families 
who settled at Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1554. 
They were using in their worship the Prayer-Book 
of King Edward VI, but did not adhere strictly 
to all its requirements. They used no surplice, 
dispensed with the litany, and allowed the people 
to make no responses after the minister. For 
this they were taken to task by their English breth- 

t O.&H..p.386ff. 


ren settled in Swiss cities, and they defended their 
practice by claiming that * these omissions and 
changes were exactly in line with those which had 
been intended by the leaders of the reform move- 
ments in England during the reign of King Ed- 
ward VI, but had been cut short by the changes 
which came with the accession of Queen Mary. 
The movement perpetuated by these English exiles 
in continental cities, therefore, represented the nat- 
ural development of the Anglican reformation 
toward a simpler form of worship and greater 
freedom from Roman Catholic doctrine. 

Queen Mary died in 1558. Princess Elizabeth 
came to the throne. The exiles returned. Again 
the form of the national religion underwent a 
change. Queen Elizabeth was conservative and 
the key-note of her policy was compromise. She 
desired to be the head of a national church, which 
should be neither so Protestant as to repel her 
Roman Catholic subjects, nor so Roman Catholic 
that her Protestant subjects would separate from 
it. Therefore, according to her instructions, the 
severe language against the pope was stricken out 
of the litany, and certain vestments which had 

1 The correspondence and an account of the entire trouble is contained 
in "A Brieff Discours off the troubles begonne at Franckford in Germany 
Anno Domini 1554. " 1575, p. xxi. Copy in Congregational Library, 
Boston. Reprint, London, 1846, p. xxi. 


been abandoned during the reign of King Edward 
were restored. 1 

Queen Elizabeth's Supremacy Act, 2 passed in 
January, 1559, repealed the Act of Repeal of 
Queen Mary, and revived a part of the acts of 
King Henry VIII and King Edward VI relating 
to the religious condition of the realm. Im- 
mediately after the above came the stringent Act 
of Uniformity, which restored the Book of 
Common Prayer, changed slightly from the form 
in which it had been fixed under King Edward 
VI. The terms of this act were very strict 
regarding the use of the Book, attendance at 
church, and the penalties attending any trans- 
gression of the statute. 3 The Pra} r er-Book was 
accepted by the majority of the queen's bishops, 
not because they all thoroughly approved of it as 
it then was, but for what a part of them hoped to 
make of it by future changes. 

Queen Elizabeth had no sympathy with the 
type of Calvinism which had been brought home 
by the exiles from the cities of the continent. She 
was ready to use their counsel, but she did not 
propose that these Protestants should carry out 
the policy which they had endeavored to realize 

1 Elisabeth retained the crucifix in her chapel and the use of the cope 
was continued. This scandalised especially the returned exiles. See 
Wakeman, pp. 329-333. 

* G. & H.,pp. 442-458. * These are specified in G. & H., p. 459. 


at borne under King Edward VI, and which they 
had perpetuated and intensified during their en- 
forced residence in the centers of Protestant thought 
abroad. Her policy mediated between these 
Protestants on the one hand and the leaders of her 
Roman Catholic subjects on the other. 

This policy of the queen found its ardent sup- 
porters among those who had been loyal to the 
general cause of the Reformation in England. 
They formed the Anglican party. On the other 
hand were those who desired to press forward to 
still greater reforms both in the doctrine and in 
the practice of the church. They desired to 
purify public worship of all the ceremonies which, 
to them, stood for obnoxious Romish doctrines, 
of which they were supposed to be rid already. 
They strove for the elevation in moral character 
of the clergy and members of the national Church. 
For this they were named Puritans. The root 
of this Puritan movement was ethical, not doc- 
trinal. Nothing could be farther from the truth 
than to imagine that the English Puritans or their 
Separatist successors were malcontents and incor- 
rigibles, who found it by nature impossible to 
abide in the same spiritual household with other 
men. They were champions of righteousness and 
men of intense ethical earnestness. This was the 


prime motive in all their activity. Puritanism 
was practical, not doctrinal, so far as its initial 
incentives were concerned. It found a buttress 
in the theology of Calvin, but it sprang from the 
ethical passion for a purer life. * 

The movement which is thus named Puritanism 
has always been at work in the Church. It man- 
ifested itself in the Netherlands before it did in 
England. Bishop Hooper, who "scrupled" the 
vestments in the reign of King Edward, was the 
father of Puritanism in England. But the clear 
definition of the movement came chiefly from 
the writings of Thomas Cartwright, Professor in 
the University of Cambridge, from which position 
he was ejected in 1571 for so-called erroneous 

Cartwright was a follower of Calvin both in 
doctrine and in polity. His teaching stood in 
positive opposition to that of the Anglican party. 
He held that the State and the Church are inde- 
pendent in administration; that the Scriptures 
teach an authoritative system of polity, of which 
the diocesan episcopate forms no part; that the 
members of the Church ought to have a share in 
the selection of their officers. The membership 

1 See ''Puritanism in the Old World and in the New," by J. Gregory, 
1896, p. 2. 


of the Church, he taught, is composed of all bap- 
tized persons who are not excommunicated, and 
the duty of the ministry is to train this body of 
church members to holiness of life. He believed 
that the magistrate ought to suppress heresy and 
compel uniformity in worship. The true reformer, 
he maintained, must remain within the Church, 
work there for its purification, and never separate 
from its communion. Separation he held to be a 
grievous sin. Cart-wright was the founder of the 
party of Presbyterian Puritanism, between which 
and the Anglican party there was sharp stress 
throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth. 

Under the strain of this contention each party 
intensified its emphasis upon its peculiar doctrines. 
The great opponent of Cartwright, Archbiehop 
Whitgift, sought to maintain simply that episco- 
pacy is the more ancient and desirable form of 
church government. In 1589, Bancroft main- 
tained that episcopacy is of divine authority, and 
in 1593 Bilson asserted that episcopacy and apos- 
tolic succession are essential to the very existence 
of the Church. Thus the breach widened. Even 
the gradual passing away of the common foe, 
Roman Catholicism, seemed to intensify the strife 
between Puritan and Anglican. 1 

1 See Williston Walker "A History of the Congregational Churches in 
the United States," 1894, pp. 19-24. 


Puritanism, as outlined by Cartwright, had 
within itself certain unfulfilled conditions which 
were inevitably bound to carry some of its fol- 
lowers to the extent of separation from the national 
church as established by law. It was a policy of 
ethical and ecclesiastical reformation. This refor- 
mation, according to Cartwright, was bound up 
with the civil power, and it was necessary to wait 
for the initiative of the civil magistrates in under- 
taking practical reform. The reformer is by 
nature a man impulsive in purpose and impatient 
of delay. The end which he seeks seems to him 
so righteous and so necessary that he cannot con- 
trol his zeal while he waits for the slow operation 
of the elaborate machinery of civil administration. 
The time was bound to come when men of this 
stamp would face the question, Has the Anglican 
Church the power resident within it to reform the 
abuses which are involved in its present constitu- 
tion? If the answer to that question were a neg- 
ative, a second question was bound also to arise : 
Is it, then, the duty of those who hold fast to the 
holy character of the members of the true Church 
to remain in the communion of the Church of Eng- 
land? Cartwright 's teaching became a school in 
which men were trained to advance beyond their 
teacher. He opened a door which other men 


entered who believed him inconsistent because he 
did not go to the full length of separation. 

The first attempt to outline the theory and prac- 
tice of a separation from the Anglican Church is 
found in the writings and the work of Robert 
Browne. It was while pastor of a church of Puri- 
tan tendencies in Cambridge, about 1580, that he 
seems to have become convinced that the Puritan 
reformation was not thorough enough, and that 
a more radical change, without waiting longer for 
help either from the impotent and unwilling mag- 
istrates or from the sad minority of faithful clergy, 
was the sole means of purifying the Church and of 
avoiding personal sin. He maintained not only 
that the order of the Anglican Church was unscrip- 
tural, but also that the bishops in sustaining it 
were guilty of sin. This sin became, by partici- 
pation, the personal sin of every person who re- 
mained in the false church, and therefore church 
relationship was a determining factor in holiness 
andjsalvation. To remain a member of the Church 
of England was to connive at sin and become in- 
volved in it. Separation was necessar}' in order 
to salvation. x 

From two small books issued by Browne we 

1 See Dexter,' 'The Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years, 
as Seen in its Literature," New York, Harper, 1880, pp. 61-128, for 
the best available study of Browne's work. 


gain an outline of his teaching, which may be gath- 
ered up under three heads: 

I. A Christian church is a company of persons 
possessing Christian character, and united to God 
and to one another in the bonds of a covenant. 
To every such church belong all the powers nec- 
essary for self-organization, government and dis- 
cipline. Such a church is a democracy, under the 
supreme and immediate headship of Christ, and 
each member is responsible to Christ for the welfare 
of the church to which he belongs. 

II. But each church is also bound to its sister 
churches, and is to give and receive aid and counsel 
whenever these are needed. 

III. The Church and the State are independent 
of each other, and therefore civil magistrates have 
no right to exercise lordship in spiritual affairs. 

These doctrines were so radical that they called 
out a proclamation in the name of Queen Eliza- 
beth against the books, the possession and circu- 
lation of which was so serious a charge that two 
men convicted of it were executed in 1583. 

It remained to be seen whether Browne was a 
man of sufficient strength to organize an institu- 
tion which could . successfully realize his ideal. 
Great clangers were bound up with propositions 
so radical as those which Browne announced. 


The true test of his capacity as a leader came when 
he endeavored to form a congregation upon the 
basis of those principles. He made the attempt 
at Middelberg. Disaster attended it. This may 
not have been due entirely to the inability of 
Browne himself to control his church. In a 
company where each man is made the responsible 
censor of his brother's opinion and conduct the 
peril is great. Poor human nature is too weak to 
endure such a strain as that unless there is a mas- 
terful personality in control, to temper men's judg- 
ments and set a high example of kindness. The 
principles of Separation called for wise leadership. 
Browne's congregation went to wreck and he him- 
self, a man of no small ability, and a preacher of 
far more than ordinary power, was incompetent 
to control his congregations, even if they had been 
organized on a model which had less possibility 
and peril of disruption bound up within it. He 
finally returned into the communion of the Church 
of England, and died, an old man, scorned by Puri- 
tans and Anglicans alike. 

The teachings of Browne were widely circulated. 
When, in 1610, Joseph Hall wrote in reply to John 
Robinson, who had claimed that the main posi- 
tions of the Separatists were not well or commonly 
known, he sard, — 


" What Cobler or Spinster hath not heard of 
the maine holds of Brownisme?" * 

Thus early Browne's name was given in derision 
to those who advocated a Separation. They tried 
in vain to shake it off, but it continued many years 
as a term of reproach. 2 

The second stage in the development of Sepa- 
ration may also be designated by the name of a 
man. Barrowism is the general name given to the 
teachings pf Henry Barrow and John Greenwood. 
After the year 1586 both of these men came into 
prominence on account of their arrest and repeated 
examination for ecclesiastical misdemeanors. Dur- 
ing their subsequent imprisonment in the Gate- 
house and Clink prisons they managed to prepare 
and smuggle out enough manuscript to fill over 
nine hundred pages of exegetical and controver- 
sial literature. In these books a new statement 
of the Separatist principle appears. 

Barrow and his friends agreed fully with Browne 
in his attack upon the Anglican Church in respect 
to the character of its members, its polity and 
its worship. The duty of Separation was made 

1 Joseph Hall, ' 'A Common Apologie of the Church of England," 1610, 
p. 5. 
* See the popular conception mirrored in the writings of Shakespeare. 
' ' I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician. " 

—Twelfth Night, iii, 2, 34. 


equally imperative. The difference between 
Browne and Barrow lay in the positive side of 
their teaching concerning the nature of the true 
church. l The general tendency in the teaching 
of Robert Browne was democratic. The theories 
of Barrow must be judged, not only according 
to the language in which he writes, but also by 
the practical character of the congregation in Am- 
sterdam which was built upon these teachings. 
And, while it is not a true judgment which pro- 
nounces Henry Barrow aristocratic rather than 
democratic, without qualification of those terms, 
it is right to say that the church order which his 
teaching inspired laid hold of that strong aristo- 
cratic tendency which appears in his teaching, and 
carried it to its logical conclusion in a church 
whose government was centered in the hands of the 
church officers. Barrow taught that the members 
of the church ought to be a " humble, meek, obedi- 
ent and loving people" toward their true govern- 
ors, the officers of the church. The body of the 
congregation, having within itself all the powers 
necessary for its organization and control, is there- 

1 See "Henry Barrow, Separatist, and the Exiled Church of Amster- 
dam," by Fred. J. Powicke, Ph.D.. London, James Clarke & Co., 1900, 
for an extensive monograph in which Barrow's work is examined very 
thoroughly, and the common judgment as to his aristocratic view of the 
church is rejected. 


fore brought into contrast with the body of the 
elders, who hold their office indeed as a trust from 
the congregation, but are, nevertheless, in a real 
sense the church. 

On the practical side Barrowism presented the 
same difficulties that were such a menace in the 
teachings of Browne. The element of religious 
espionage in the system was the prophecy of its 
ultimate failure unless there should be the counter- 
acting force of sane personal leadership in the 
church built upon these principles. A church was 
gathered in London, organized with Francis John- 
son as its pastor in 1592, and had a stormy history, 
both in England and in Holland. In London they 
were the objects of intense persecution from which 
they finally fled to Amsterdam. For clearness in 
description this congregation is generally described 
as the "Ancient London Church. " The story of 
their trials in Holland is pathetic. We shall meet 
them later there. 1 

Thus we have outlined the growth of the radi- 
cal wing of the Puritan movement into the Separa- 
tion, on the constructive side of which we find a 
fundamental difference in church theory between 
democracy and aristocracy. We shall take up this 
movement later when we turn to the history of a 

1 See Dexter, "Congregationalism as Seen," etc., Lecture V. 


Separatist congregation which was gathered near 
Scrooby early in the seventeenth century. 

Throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth the 
strife betweeen Anglican and Puritan went . on. 
The hopes of the latter had been set upon the suc- 
cessor to the queen, James of Scotland, who came 
to the throne in 1603. On his way from Scotland 
to London he was met by a petition, called, from 
the supposed number of signatures which it bore, 
the Millenary Petition. * The signers of this peti- 
tion were "the ministers of the gospel in this 
land, neither as factious men affecting a popular 
parity in the Church, nor as schismatics aiming at 
the dissolution of the State eccleciasticai, but as 
the faithful servants of Christ and loyal subjects 
to your majesty, desiring and longing for the 
redress of divers abuses of the Church." 

The petition, therefore, did not come from Brown- 
ists with a dangerous tendency toward democracy 
in their doctrine, nor from Separatists with the 
direful trend toward Separation in their practice. 
It represented the conforming Puritans. The scope 
of their "humble suit" was that these offensive 
things, among others named, might be removed 
or changed: the cross in baptism; confirmation; 
use of the cap and surplice; " longsomeness of 

1 Copy in G. & H., pp. 508 ff. 


service"; profanation of the Lord's Day; the 
use of the ring in marriage; bowing at the name 
of Jesus. They also begged that no popish doc- 
trine be taught; that only men able to preach be 
made ministers; that non-residency of ministers 
be no longer permitted. They urged reforms in 
the matter of administering the pastoral office, 
particularly regarding plural benefices and fees. 
And they pleaded for a juster exercise of the func- 
tions of church discipline. 

The petitioners declared themselves ready to 
show that the abuses mentioned were contrary 
to the Scriptures, either in writing, or at a confer- 
ence to be called by the king. 

The king called the Hampton Court Conference 
at once to meet in January, 1604, for the purpose 
of consulting in regard to religious changes in the 
nation. The result of its deliberations was to 
convince the Puritan party that absolutely noth- 
ing favorable to its policy was to be expected at 
the hands of the new king. His temper became 
violent under the pressure of the Puritan conten- 
tion. The Hampton Court Conference was deci- 
sive for the hopes of all those ministers who might 
be still of the belief that the true method of reform 
was to remain loyal members of the Church of 
England. The tendency of such a decision would 


be either to crush such ministers back into con- 
formity, or to drive them farther forward into open 

Another act in the definition of church order 
and the royal policy was the results reached by the 
Convocations of 1603-4. These assemblies, con- 
vened by royal warrant, in both Canterbury and 
York provinces, enacted the canons of 1604, in 
which we have a clear outline of the order of a 
state church prescribed for the whole realm and 
sanctioned by the king. 

Thus the first year of the reign of King James 
was a year of definition. Anglican, Puritan and 
Separatist alike knew what to expect. The more 
zealous and earnest Puritans could not feed their 
hearts on false hopes any longer. Separation was 
bound to come easier under such conditions. 

Let us at this point, therefore, take a brief survey 
of the church organization which had been sanc- 
tioned by Church and king in the Convocation of 
1603-4, in order that we may clearly see the eccle- 
siastical system from which the Separation was 
made. Only a very brief and general outline can 
be presented here, but the fundamental princi- 
ples in the Anglican polity are clearly displayed 
in these enactments. The title of the book is, 
"Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiasticall, Treated 


upon by the Bishop of London," etc., 1604. 
The canons number in all one hundred and 
forty-one, of which twelve are devoted to the 
Church of England, eighteen to the service and 
sacraments, forty-six to ministers, and thirty-six 
to the ecclesiastical courts. The remainder are 
devoted to miscellaneous matters. 

We will now attempt from these sources to con- 
struct the general system of the established church 
order from which the Separatists went out. 

The center of the entire system is the royal 
supremacy in all matters ecclesiastical as well 
as civil. At least four times each year all preach- 
ers, ministers and lecturers are to teach plainly 
that all authority in religious and civil matters 
claimed by any other person than the king is abol- 
ished, and that the sovereign's power in the realm 
is the highest under God's. The royal authority 
is supreme in every department of the kingdom. 

The Church of England as established by law in 
the realm by these canons is a true Church. The 
test of the true character of the Church is made 
by applying to it the question, Does it maintain 
and teach the doctrines of the apostles? The 
Church of England does this, and is therefore a 
true Church. Any one who denies this fact is con- 
demned to excommunication and can be restored 


only by the archbishop, after repentance and the 
public revocation of his error by the guilty party. 

Since the Church of England is the true Church, 
separation from it is defined as follows: — 

"Whosoever shall hereafter separate them- 
selves from the communion of saints, as it is ap- 
proved by the Apostles' rules in the Church of 
England, and combine themselves together in a 
new brotherhood, accounting the Christians who 
are conformable to the doctrine, government, 
rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, 
to be profane and unmeet for them to join within 
Christian profession, let them be excommunicated." 

Ministers who refuse "subscription" are denied 
the right to take the name of any church not estab- 
lished by law, and whoever asserts that such min- 
isters have this right, or claim that the Church of 
England is oppressing any such forbidden church, 
is liable to excommunication. 

For doctrine, the Thirty-Nine Articles, agreed 
upon in 1552, form the authoritative creed of the 
Church. Excommunication is the penalty pre- 
scribed for any one who should affirm that these 
Articles are in any particular superstitious or erro- 

The government of the Church in general is 
administered, under the king, by archbishops, 
bishops, etc. To affirm that this system is in any 


way repugnant to the Word of God, or to deny the 
validity of the forms used in the consecration of 
bishops, priests and deacons, renders the person 
making the affirmation or denial liable to excom- 

The Church of England is divided into two 
provinces, at the head of each of which is an arch- 
bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the 
Primate of all England. Next to him is the 
Archbishop of York. 

The second division is the diocese, at the head 
of which is the bishop, who, in the controversies 
of the times, is often called the ' 'ordinary." The 
cathedral church of the diocese is the one containing 
the bishop 's throne. The duties of the bishops and 
other church officers are outlined clearly. One 
of the special abuses recognized by the Convoca- 
tions is the failure of ministers to reside in their 
parishes. This is taken up and the practice for- 

The unit of organization in the Church of Eng- 
land is the parish, of which all baptized persons 
who are not suspended or excommunicated are 
members by virtue of their baptism. At the head 
of the parish is the minister or priest, assisted, if 
necessary, by one or more curates, who have been 
ordained either deacons or priests. Upon the 


office and work of the ministry the burden of 
emphasis in the canons is laid. This forms so 
large a theme in the arguments and attacks of the 
Separatists, that we must look at the matter 
somewhat in detail. 

No person is permitted to become a candidate 
for sacred orders unless he shall be at least twenty- 
three years old for a deacon, and twenty-four for 
a priest. He must also be able to show the bishop 
at the time of his ordination that he has a position 
in the Church ready for him, or that he is in some 
way provided for. The exception to this rule is 
Masters of Arts of five years' standing, living at 
their own expense, or men whom the bishops 
are sure that they can soon appoint to livings. 
Furthermore, the candidate must be a resident 
of the diocese of the bishop who is to ordain him, 
or else must bring letters from the bishop of the 
diocese to which he belongs. Either he must have 
taken a degree at Oxford or Cambridge, or else 
he must be able to give an account of his faith in 
Latin and to defend it from the Scriptures. The 
moral character of the candidate must be vouched 
for under the seal of Oxford or Cambridge, or by 
three or four ministers and other persons who 
have known him for a space of at least three years. 
Before he can be ordained, he must be rigidly 


examined in the presence of the bishop and the 
assisting ministers, who must be from the candi- 
date's cathedral church, if possible, and if not, 
from among the preachers of the same diocese. 

Certainly it would seem as if the safeguards 
thrown around the matter of sacred orders were 
sufficient, according to these canons, to secure for 
the ministry of the Church men of ability and 
character. The only loophole through which 
either ignorant or bad men could slip in would be 
the failure of the bishops to hold rigidly to the 
strenuous requirements of the canons. Doubtless 
this was sometimes the case, for the canons pre- 
scribe penalties for those bishops who ordain men 
for whom there seems to be no prospect of prefer- 
ment, or who fail to make the necessary exami- 

It will be necessary for us to recall these canons 
when we come to consider the attack of the Sepa- 
ratists upon the ministry of the Anglican Church. 

The canons also carefully safeguard the matter 
of preferment and the episcopal sanction of min- 
isters. No minister is allowed to pass from one 
diocese to another and be instituted over a church 
in the latter, unless he can show the bishop of the 
new diocese his orders, and give evidence of a good 
life and pass an examination if required. No man 


is to serve as a curate or minister without exam- 
ination and approval by the bishop or his deputy. 
Nor is one man permitted to serve more than one 
church or chapel in one day, unless the chapel is 
united to the parish church or the bishops have 
decided that the second church or chapel is unable 
to sustain a curate. 

The work of the ministry covers the general 
spiritual interests of the parish. But the canons 
devote special attention to the matter of preach- 
ing. This is without doubt inspired by the Puritan 
attack on this point. A difference is recognized 
between ministers who are able to preach and 
those who are not, and special provision is made 
for the parishes of the latter. Every beneficed 
preacher is required, either in his own or a neigh- 
boring parish, to preach one sermon every Sunday, 
and in this sermon he is required to " soberly and 
sincerely divide the Word of truth to the glory of 
God and to the best edification of the people." 
If a man in a benefice is not able to preach, how- 
ever, he is required to provide that sermons shall 
be preached in his parish at least once a month 
by preachers lawfully commissioned to perform 
this service. But it is left to the judgment of the 
bishop to decide whether or not the living of such 
a minister will bear the cost of such a supply of a 


preacher as is specified above. Here again we 
note the way in which the administration of the 
canons rests with the bishops, and must not infer 
too quickly that, because the canons make these 
provisions for preaching, the prescriptions were 
faithfully carried out by the bishops. It is further 
enjoined that every Sunday when there is no ser- 
mon preached, the minister or the curate shall read 
some one of the prescribed homilies. A minister 
who cannot preach is also forbidden to attempt 
to expound the Scriptures. No preacher is 
allowed to preach without showing his license, and 
the test of his doctrinal soundness is the Scriptures, 
the Articles of Religion and the Prayer-Book. 
Every sermon is to be recorded in a book at the 
church where it is preached, and the names of the 
preacher and licensing bishop are required for the 
record. No preacher is allowed to oppose any doc- 
trine delivered by any other preacher in the same 
or a neighboring church without the consent of 
the bishop. Failure to conform to the require- 
ments of the Prayer-Book is to be punished by 
forfeiture of the license to preach. 

Every preacher with a benefice, even if he have 
a curate, is required to read service and admin- 
ister the sacraments, at least twioe yearly in his 
parish church. It is strictly forbidden to preach 


or to administer the sacraments in private houses, 
except in cases of the feebleness or the dangerous 
illness of the inmates. By a private house is 
meant a house in which there is no legally dedicated 
chapel. In case a chapel is connected with a house 
the chaplain is forbidden to administer the sacra- 
ments except in the chapel, and then only seldom, 
in order that the owners of the house may par- 
take of the communion more often in the church. 

Inasmuch as some persons had refused to have 
their children christened, or to take the communion 
when the minister was not a preacher, a canon 
charges such persons to cease this refusal upon 
pain of excommunication, " as though the virtue 
of those sacraments did depend upon this [the min- 
ister's] ability to preach." 

The other duties prescribed for the ministry 
are those which naturally belong to the office, such 
as christening, which must be according to the 
rules of the Prayer-Book; burial of the dead, which 
is to be denied only to those excommunicated or 
guilty of notorious crimes for which they did not 
repent; catechizing; preparation of children for 
confirmation by the bishop; the marriage of per- 
sons duly authorized; and visitation of the sick. 

A significant canon, in view of the attack made 
by the Separatists upon the moral character of 


many of the Anglican ministers, has to do with 
the regulation of the conduct of the clergy. The 
very vices which we find charged against them by 
John Robinson are here explicitly prohibited. 
They are forbidden to resort to taverns or ale 
houses, to drink or riot, to play at cards or dice. 
They are commanded to live in honest study, to 
exercise and not forsake their calling. 

The final test to which every minister must sub- 
mit is subscription to certain articles of belief and 
practice. Any minister coming into a diocese 
must subscribe to these in the presence of the 
bishop of the diocese before he may be permitted 
to perform any of the duties of his office. The 
thirty-sixth canon sums up so completely the rela- 
tion which the minister must bear to the church 
in this matter of subscription, that we give it as 
it stands: — 

" No person shall hereafter be received into the 
Ministry, nor either by Institution or Collation 
admitted to any ecclesiastical living, nor suffered 
to preach, to catechize, or to be a Lecturer, or 
Reader of Divinity in either Universities, or in any 
cathedral or collegiate Church, City, or Market 
town, Parish Church, Chapel, or in any other 
place within this Realm, except he be licensed 
either by the Archbishop, or by the Bishop of the 
diocese (where he is to be placed) under their 


hands and seals, or by one of the two Universities 
under their seal likewise, and except he shall first 
subscribe to these three Articles following, in such 
manner and sort as we have here appointed: — 

" I. That the King's Majesty, under God, is 
the only supreme Governor of this Realm, and 
of all other his Highness' Dominions and Coun- 
tries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things 
or causes, as temporal. And that no foreign 
Prince, Person, Prelate, State, or Potentate have 
or ought to have any Jurisdiction, Power, Superi- 
ority, Preeminence, or Authority ecclesiastical or 
spiritual within his Majesty's said Realms, Do- 
minions and Countries. 

" II. That the Book of Common Prayer, and 
of ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, con- 
taineth in it nothing contrary to the Word of God, 
and that it may lawfully be used, and that he him- 
self will use the form in the said book prescribed 
in public prayer and administration of the sacra- 
ments and none other. 

" III. That he alloweth the books of Articles 
of Religion agreed upon by the Archbishops and 
Bishops of both provinces and the whole clergy 
in the Convocation holden at London in the year 
of our Lord God one thousand five hundred fifty 
and two; and that he acknowledged all and every 
the articles therein contained, being in number 
nine and thirty, besides the ratification, to be 
agreeable to the Word of God. 

"To these three articles, whoever will sub- 
scribe, he shall, for the avoiding of all ambigui- 


ties, subscribe in this order and form of words, 
setting down both his Christian and surname, 

" / N. N. do willingly and ex animo subscribe to 
these three articles above mentioned and to all things 
that are contained in them. 17 

This is the test of subscription, about which 
contemporary writing is so full, and which proved 
such a heavy burden to the Separatists. Every 
bishop is strictly enjoined to see that rigid sub- 
scription is required from every minister of the 
diocese, under severe penalty in case of any omis- 
sion. The test is to be constantly in force. If any 
minister, after having subscribed to these three 
articles, should fail to use all the forms of worship 
as prescribed in the Prayer-Book, he is to be sus- 
pended from his office and given a month in which 
to reform his ways. If at the end of that time 
he does not submit to the requirements of the 
Prayer-Book, he is to be excommunicated and 
given one month more for reformation. If at the 
end of this second month of probation he remains 
obdurate, he is to be deposed from the ministry. 

The canons proceed to take up the matter of 
plurality of benefice, and seek to guard the church 
from the danger which is involved in this plainly 
recognized abuse. But the canons only prescribe 
that ministers who are allowed to hold more than 


one living shall be men of excellent training and 
ability as preachers; that the livings shall not be 
more than thirty miles apart; and that the minis- 
ters shall reside in each place a reasonable amount 
of time each year. 

The worship of the Church is covered by the 
canons. There are two sacraments, baptism and 
the Lord's Supper. One of the points which was 
hotly debated when these canons were adopted was 
the use of the sign of the cross in baptism. The 
use of the sign is defended in a long argument of 
little force, after which the sign is asserted to be 
no essential part of the ceremony, which might be 
equally perfect if the sign were not used. It is 
employed as an accidental part of the sacrament 
of baptism, and is so to be used by the Church. 

The Lord's Supper is to be administered at 
least three times each year, one of these occasions 
being at Easter. And every layman is bound to 
receive it thrice every year, ' ' under the penalty 
and danger of the Law." In administering the 
sacrament the minister is to partake first, and 
the communicants are to receive both the bread 
and the wine. Among those to be excluded from 
the communion are persons known to be living 
in notorious sin, persons at enmity with their 
neighbors, and officers of the church who have 


not presented for prosecution to their bishops 
such offenders against the church as they are 
bound by their oath to search out. Also those 
who refuse to be present at public prayers accord- 
ing to the order of the Church of England, deprav- 
ers of the Prayer-Book, and persons denying the 
validity of the ceremonies enjoined in the Prayer- 
Book are to be excluded. 

The Prayer-Book is given a place of supreme 
importance in all the worship of the Church. To 
assert that the forms which it prescribes are super- 
stitious, unlawful or inconsistent with the Scrip- 
tures, is sufficient ground for excommunication. 
The ministers are held strictly to all its require- 
ments, without being allowed in the least to dimin- 
ish the force of its injunctions in their preaching, 
or to add anything either to its form or matter. 
So far as the Prayer-Book contains rites and cere- 
monies, these are obligatory upon every person. 
To affirm that these ceremonies are wicked or 
superstitious, or to claim that zealous and godly 
men may not with good conscience approve, em- 
ploy and subscribe to them — this is sufficient war- 
rant for excommunication. 

The proper clothing for church officers is de- 
scribed in the canons, from the garb of the arch- 
bishop to the dress of the poor curate. The sur- 


pi ice is to be worn by every minister while he 
conducts service. Tt is to be made with sleeves 
and provided at the expense of the parish. All 
questions concerning vestments are to be decided 
by the bishop or his deputy. Ministers who are 
university graduates are commanded to wear 
hoods according to their degrees. Ministers who 
are not university graduates are allowed to wear 
upon the surplice, " instead of hoods, some decent 
tippet of black, so it be not silk." 

The sacred days of the Church are many. Be- 
sides Sunday, all the holidays announced in the 
Prayer-Book must be observed. The litany is to 
be said or sung, not only on these days, but upon 
every Wednesday and Friday, whether these were 
holidays or not. 

This gives us, from the official Canons of the 
Church, a fairly distinct picture of the organiza- 
tion to which conformity was required from every 
minister by the law. To enforce this requirement 
there was developed a system of judicial machinery 
which became a tyranny. We do not need to 
survey these courts before which those who refused 
subscription suffered. Enough has been seen 
already to show how strong the tests of conformity 
were, and how easy it might be to become an eccle- 
siastical offender. 





It is not possible at present to trace with cer- 
tainty any line of causal connection between the 
congregation or congregations formed about London 
on the principles of the Separation and the organ- 
ization of similar companies in the north of Eng- 
land. They were both due to the earnest preach- 
ing of the Puritan ministers and their insistence 
upon a holy life. This brought about a radical 
change of character and begot a zeal for reforma- 
tion in their converts. When the possibility of 
that reformation was thus sought by these men, 
and when the simple model of church organiza- 
tion in the New Testament was studied, it appeared 
to them that the government of the Church by 
bishops and the use of the ceremonies prescribed 
by the Prayer-Book were alike inconsistent with 
the New Testament description of the Church. 
They were, in each case, men who were seeking a 
higher expression of the religious life, and they 
came to the common conclusion that the expres- 



sion could not be realized through the church as 
then constituted by law in England. 

In the year 1849 Rev. Joseph Hunter for the 
first time identified the exact region in which were 
gathered the Separatist congregations from which 
the "Pilgrim Fathers" of America came. In 
1854 the full results of his investigations were 
published. 1 He determined, from references in 
the writings of Bradford, that the village of 
Scrooby was the chief center of the movement, the 
area of which is now quite specifically defined. 

The general character of the district in which 
these Separatist congregations were organized 
would not seem at first to promise much in the 
way of intellectual development. It was open 
country, flat and uninteresting, with villages dot- 
ting the landscape here and there, and only a 
scattered population. It was isolated from the 
large cities. The Great North Road ran through 
it; but this, Arber says> was "a mere horse track, 
and not fenced in; so that the traveller needed a 
guide, to prevent his wandering out of the way." 2 
In spite of all that one would naturally suppose 

1 "Collections concerning the Church or Congregation of Protestant 
Separatists formed at Scrooby in North Nottinghamshire, in the time of 
King James I: the Founders of New Plymouth," by the Rev. Joseph 
Hunter. London, 1854. 

* "Story of the Pilgrim Fathers," p. 51. 


to have been true concerning the ignorance of the 
peasantry, the narrowness of their world, and their 
indifference to the life of the spirit, there had been 
a unique religious character about the district. 
Previous to the Reformation there had been many 
houses of the different religious bodies in the re- 
gion; nearly every monastic order was represented. 
Many of the leading families there were ardent 
Roman Catholics and suffered severe hardships 
when the state religion was changed. Corre- 
sponding to this loyal support of the old faith by 
the old aristocracy was a singular activity on 
the part of the Puritan preachers, to which the 
organizations in Gainsborough and Scrooby were 
due. 1 The work of laymen was no less conspic- 
uous. Bradford tells how William Brewster's 
great religious service to the country in which he 
lived consisted both in his personal example of a 
godly life and in the effort which he made to pro- 
cure good preachers in all the villages round about. 
This was his practice before ever he had thought 
of Separation. He was not the only earnest, high- 
minded man in the region. The whole section 
was good soil for the harvest of religious freedom. 
It is a singular fact that the pioneers of the Eng- 
lish Baptists are Smyth and Helwisse of Gains- 

1 See Hunter, "Collections/' pp. 24 ff. 


borough; that the Congregationalists are proud 
to claim as the founders of their polity in its 
modern form Robinson, Brewster and Bradford, 
all of this district; that later, from the rectory at 
Epworth, in this very region, went forth John and 
Charles Wesley, the great leaders of the Methodist 
movement. There must have been a local tem- 
per which made this possible. Arber's attempt 
to apply the "crass ignorance of the country 
peasantry of England" to this district is unwar- 
ranted in the face of what has been done for true 
religion by its inhabitants. 

The protest of earnest preachers and zealous 
laymen against the Anglican Church as established 
by law involved them in trouble. After a time 
they organized into churches. The first of these 
organizations probably took place in the city of 
Gainsborough, about the year 1602, and the later 
leader of the movement and pastor of the church 
was John Smyth. The sole authority for this 
early date, however, is Secretary Morton in "New 
England's Memorial." Bradford does not give 
the date, and, in general, the author of the History 
seems to have had little regard for the necessity 
of definite chronology. He is not so much in- 
accurate as he is careless or inadequate. Prince 


followed Morton in regard to the date, and Hunter 
and Dexter both seem inclined to accept it. * 

So far as it rests upon the official connection of 
John Smyth with the congregation, the date 1602 
is probably too early. Edward Arber seems to 
have established the fact 2 that John Smyth was 
a conforming minister of the Church of England 
in Lincoln on March 22, 1605. It was not until 
after that date that we are to connect him with 
the Separatist congregation at Gainsborough. 
But this is not clear proof that the congregation 
itself was not organized before that date, as Arber 
stoutly claims it could not have been. 3 That 
claim cannot be established until we are sure that 
the organization of the congregation and the elec- 
tion of its officers were contemporary We shall 
discover clear proof that there is a difference in 
the Separatist theory between a church "gath- 
ered," that is, united in covenant, and a church 
organized fully by the election of its officers. The 
second stage was not necessary in order that a con- 
gregation might be called a "church." There 
is no sufficient reason why Morton's date should 
not be accepted as accurate for the organization 
by covenant of this Separatist company. 

1 So Dunning, "Congregationalists in America, " p. 72. 
* "Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, " pp 133, 134. 
3 Ibid. D., p. 48. 


John Smyth, a Cambridge man, became identi- 
fied with the congregation at some time following 
the year 1602, and we generally connect his name 
most closely with its fortunes in England and 
Holland. Smyth decided for the Separation after 
a period of nine months spent in study and doubt 
over the question. His congregation was called 
a company of "tradesmen" by their opponents. 
He carried his ideas of the Separation to the farthest 
extreme, and maintained that it was necessary 
to withdraw, not only from all public worship or 
communion with the Anglican Church, but even 
from all acts of religious fellowship with its mem- 
bers, such as reading the Scriptures or joining in 
private prayer. 

Persecution swiftly followed the gathering of the 
Gainsborough congregation and they were com- 
pelled to flee into Holland, which was the refuge 
then for all who suffered for non-conformity in 
England. The emigration was gradually effected, 
and they reached Amsterdam in October or No- 
vember, 1606. 

The second congregation probably never for- 
mally split off from the church at Gainsborough, 
although at the beginning the two seem to have 
been part of one movement. Scrooby is a little 
village which was, at the close of the sixteenth 


century, one of the post stations on the Great 
North Road from London to Berwick. After the 
accession of King James I this road became more 
important, owing to the necessity of frequent 
communication between the two courts. Conse- 
quently the postmaster became a man of consid- 
erable local prominence and income. The office 
in Scrooby was held by William Brewster from 
April 1, 1590, to September 30, 1607. 

Also in Scrooby there was a manor house be- 
longing to the Archbishop of York, which Arch- 
bishop Sandys had granted to his son Samuel, 
under whom William Brewster, postmaster, held 
it. We have observed already the practical char- 
acter of the religion of William Brewster. It was 
natural that, when such a man became a Separatist, 
he should open his house to his brethren and lend 
his personal influence and activity to their cause. 
This is exactly what he did. A new center was 
formed in the old manor house at Scrooby. Doubt- 
less many who came to meet and worship there 
had formerly gone the longer distance to Gainsbor- 
ough. Brewster entertained them when they came, 
at no slight expense to himself, and continued his 
practice as long as they remained in England. 

The members of the congregation came from 
the villages of Austerfield and Scrooby and from 


the adjacent country so far as there were isolated 
houses. At the beginning they gathered on Sun- 
day for counsel, fellowship and, probably, for some 
simple form of worship, walking to and from the 
manor house and proving the hospitality of its 
owner. This fellowship, however, grew naturally 
to assume a form of organic union. The picture 
which we have of the formation of the little church 
comes from one of the later antagonists * of John 
Robinson, who says : — * 

"Is this so strange to John Robinson? do we 
not know the beginnings of his Church? that there 
was first one stood up and made a covenant, and 
then another, and these two ioyned together, and 
so a third, and there became a church, say they." 

The simplicity of this action is striking. There 
was no bishop and no council of churches. There 
was no test of creed. The covenant was made 
between man and man, and its terms were very 
plain. This is precisely the action to which Wil- 
liam Bradford refers when he says 2 that these 
Separatists "joyned themselves (by a covenant of 
the Lord) into a church estate, in ye fellowship 
of ye gospell, to walke in all his wayes, made 

1 "[John Murton] A Description of what God hath predestinated con- 
cerning Man," etc., 1620, p. 160. 

* "Of Plimoth Plantation," 1898, p. 13. 


known, or to be made known unto them, according 
to their best endeavours, whatever it should cost 
them, the Lord assisting them." 

This simple organization did not imply a lack 
of personal leadership. The very opposite was 
true. From the beginning strong men were asso- 
ciated with the Scrooby congregation. 

First was Richard Clyfton. To his preaching, 
perhaps, the very inception of the movement goes 
back. Bradford says that he was "a grave and 
reverend preacher, who by his pains and diligence 
had done much good, and under God had been the 
means of the conversion of many." 1 He also 
tells us that Clyfton was "sound and orthodox" 
to his end. He was the rector of Babworth, be- 
tween six and seven miles south of Scrooby, and 
nine miles from Austerfield, from which village 
William Bradford sometimes walked on Sundays 
to hear him preach. It may be a personal remi- 
niscence when Bradford says of him, " Much good 
had he done in the country where he lived, and 
converted many to God by his faithful and painful 
ministry, both in preaching and catechizing. " It 
was a precious fruit of his ministry indeed if the 
choice spirit of William Bradford was one that he 
led into the Christian life. He was probably dis- 

1 "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 14. 


placed by the enforcement of the canons of 1603-4, 
and became one of the members united by covenant 
with his fellow Separatists in Scrooby church. 

William Bradford, later governor of Plymouth, 
and author of the priceless history "Of Plimoth 
Plantation/' now preserved in the State Library 
of Massachusetts at Boston, was one of the younger 
members of the church, and did not assume his 
position of prominence until after the emigration 
to America. He was born in the village of Auster- 
field, three miles from Scrooby, and baptized there 
March 19, 1589 [1590]. His connection with the 
Scrooby congregation was probably brought about 
through his association with Richard Clyfton while 
the latter was preaching in Babworth, before he 
was silenced by the ecclesiastical authorities. 

The leader of the movement who stands out 
most clearly at the beginning, on account of his 
connection with the manor house and his practical 
service to the cause, is William Brewster. He 
was a man of great individual power and singular 
personal worth. He was a printer rather than a 
writer when the time for the defense of the Sepa- 
ration came. We have no book preserved from 
his pen, and so there is no source from which to 
reach an estimate of his strength as a writer. His 
great service to the Separation did not lie* in the 


written defense of its principles, or in the preser- 
vation of its history. He was the central figure 
in the early history of the Scrooby congregation 
and always one of its strongest members and most 
judicious leaders. 

Neither Clyfton, Bradford nor Brewster, how- 
ever, is the person who assumed the final leader- 
ship of the Scrooby company. Any one of them 
might, perhaps, have saved the little church 
from the wreck which was made so sadly by the 
congregations of Browne, Johnson (the Ancient 
London Church), and Smyth, who pushed on to 
Holland ahead of the Scrooby brethren. There 
was another man who would prove himself great 
enough to master the Separation and embody it 
for the first time in a successful organization. This 
was John Robinson, the subject of this biography. 







There is no contemporary biography of John 
Robinson; nor has the attempt been made to 
treat with any degree of completeness from the 
original sources the course of his thought, the con- 
tribution he made to his age, or the personality of 
the man himself. Governor Bradford has given 
us a few paragraphs in his famous "Dialogue" 
regarding Robinson; there are also a few scat- 
tered contemporary opinions concerning him. But 
these are not adequate to enable us fully to trace 
the course of events with which he was so actively 
associated. Nor are his writings strongly autobi- 
ographical. He never boasts of what he has done; 
he keeps far out of sight in his controversies. 

But, while we are thus limited on the objective 
side, we shall find that Robinson is constantly 
revealing himself on the subjective side. He dis- 
closes his heart; he lays bare the motive forces of 
his life. It is a character singularly simple and 
consistent; it is the soul of a man to be loved which 



we discover in these old controversial pamphlets 
and sometimes dreary discussions. Our chief 
sources are those passages in his preserved books 
where John Robinson writes out of his very heart. 

The year of his birth is determined from an 
entry in the records of the University of Leyden. 
On September 5; 1615, by permission of the over- 
seers, he was admitted to the university, being 
then thirty-nine years of age and supporting a 
family. Therefore he was born in 1575 or 1576. 
He died in Leyden in 1625. His life covered a 
span of a half century, the last quarter of the six- 
teenth and the first quarter of the seventeenth. 
The period of his life which concerns us most 
closely was contemporaneous with the reign of 
King James I of England, 1603-1625. 

The place of his birth we are not able as yet to 
determine surely. The conjecture is that he was 
born in Gainsborough. There is at least a prob- 
ability that this is true. Dr. Henry M. Dexter 
searched the parish records, which are in very 
imperfect condition, and was not able to discover 
any record of his baptism there. 1 This, however, 
is negative evidence only. Hunter 2 notes the fact 

1 See "Congregationalism as Seen, etc." p. 359, note 1. 

* See "Collections, etc.: the Founders of New Plymouth," London. 
1854, p. 93. 


that prominent dissenters during the reign of 
King Charles II were Robinsons of Gainsborough. 
In the time of his greatest perplexity he turned 
toward Gainsborough as one might be drawn 
toward the home of his youth. 

Certainly we may be right in imagining the boy- 
hood years of the lad spent in this old town, a 
picture of which George Eliot gives in "The Mill 
on the Floss. " Gainsborough is St. Oggs, and the 
gray antiquity and sweet charm of the place are 
revealed in her description: — 

" It is one of those old, old towns, which impress 
one as a continuation and outgrowth of nature, 
as much as the nests of the bower-birds, or the 
winding galleries of the white ants; a town which 
carries the traces of its long growth and history 
like a millennial tree, and has sprung up and devel- 
oped in the same spot, between the river and the 
low hill, from the time when the Roman legions 
turned their backs on it from the camp on the 
hillside, and the long-haired sea kings came up 
the river and looked with fierce, eager eyes at the 
fatness of the land. It is a 'town familiar with 
forgotten "years.' The shadow of the Saxon hero 
king still walks there fitfully, reviewing the scenes 
of his youth and love time, and is met by the 
gloomier shadow of the dreadful heathen Dane, 
who was stabbed in the midst of his warriors by 
the sword of an invisible avenger, and who rises 
on autumn evenings like a white mist from the 


tumulus on the hill, and hovers in the court of the 
Old Hall by the river side — the spot where he was 
miraculously slain in the days before the Old Hall 
was built. It was the Normans who began to 
build that fine old hall, which is like the town, 
telling of the thoughts and hands of widely-sun- 
dered generations; but it is all so old that we look 
with loving pardon at its inconsistencies, and are 
well content that they who built the stone oriel 
and they who built the Gothic facade and towers 
of finest small brickwork, with the trefoil ornament 
and the windows and battlements defined with 
stone, did not sacrilegiously pull down the ancient, 
half-timbered body, with its oak-roofed banqueting 

Gainsborough, then, with its long history and 
its busy trade, may have been Robinson's birth- 
place. If it was, his boyhood was spent in a town 
where there were not only active interests to engage 
him, but all the charm of romance and venerable 
story to kindle his imagination. 

There have been other conjectures as to his 
place of birth, none of which seems so probable as 
this. John Browne * thinks it quite possible that 
he was the son of John Robinson, d.d., an arch- 
deacon and precentor of Lincoln Cathedral, and 
that he was born in Lincoln. There is hardly so 
much probability in this as there is in the con- 

1 "The Pilgrim Fathers of New England and their Puritan Successors," 
London, 1895, p. 95. 


jecture that he was born in Gainsborough. Still 
less probable is the suggestion of Gordon in the 
"Dictionary of National Biography" that Robin- 
son was born in Saxlingham. 

Concerning his childhood we really know noth- 
ing. There is a reference in one of his "Essays" 
to the harmful indulgence of mothers and grand- 
parents toward children. 1 From this Dr. Henry 
M. Dexter 2 thought it might be possible to infer 
that he lost his father early in life. But there is 
not enough evidence to warrant this conclusion. 

We are equally uninformed concerning his family 
or the social station into which he was born. But 
there seem to have been considerable periods of 
time after he had become involved in trouble with 
the church authorities when he existed with no 
visible means of support. Also he printed many 
books which must have cost him large sums of 
money, since their sale was forbidden at home. 
And in Leyden he was concerned in the purchase 
of a large property, the so-called John Robinson 
house. His writings never hint at the pinch of 
poverty. These facts would seem at least to indi- 
cate that he was not from a poor family. This 
is, to be sure, negative evidence. It is not with- 

1 Works, 1:246. 

* "Congregationalism as Seen, etc. " p. 360. 


out value, however. The pinching of poverty 
generally betrays itself somewhere in a man's 
writings or it is discoverable in his actions. There 
is nothing of the sort in evidence in Robinson's 

The first records which we have in England 
concerning him are from Corpus Christi College, 
Cambridge, from which we learn that he was ad- 
mitted in 1592 and was fellow in 1598. There is, 
. curiously, the record of another John Robinson on 
i the rolls of Emanuel College, Cambridge, but this 
I is clearly concerned with another person than the 
.subject of this biography. 1 

The Corpus Christi record describes Robinson 
as from the county of Lincoln, and Masters adds 
the information that this was the John Robinson 
who later lived in Holland. In 1831 a new edition 
of Masters' History of Corpus Christi College 
(originally published in 1749) was issued, in which 

1 The record on the register of Emanuel College is "John Robinson, en- 
tered as sizar, March 2d, 1502: took his M. A. 1000 and B. D. 1607." 
lliis cannot refer to our Robinson, who could not have taken his B.D. 
degree from Cambridge so late as 1607, for he had decided for the Separa- 
tion before that time. This entry misled Young (see "Chronicles," p. 
452) into supposing that this Emanuel graduate was the later Separatist. 
Also James Savage in "Gleanings from New England History" (Mass. 
Hist. Soc. Coll. Series 3, Vol. 8, pp. 248-249) makes the same error. Greg- 
ory in "Puritanism," p. 211, says that Robinson was a fellow of Christ's 
College, Cambridge; on p. 214 he says that Robinson "graduated at Cor- 
pus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1502, and became a Fellow probably 
in 1509." 


the editor, Dr. Lamb, refers to this record, and 
says that Robinson succeeded a Mr. Morley as 
fellow in 1598 and resigned his fellowship in 1604. 
He also says that Robinson was from Notting- 
hamshire. No satisfactory authorities are given 
for these assertions, and they add nothing trust- 
worthy to the scant store of our reliable informa- 
tion. The change in the matter of counties may 
be explained easily if Robinson was born in Gains- 
borough, as the Trent is the dividing line between 
Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. 

Robinson entered the University of Cambridge 
during the splendor of the reign of Queen Eliza- 
beth. Four years before, the Lord's winds had 
blown and the Spanish Armada had gone to its de- 
struction. The menace of Philip the Catholic had 
been in vain; the danger of a return to the policy 
of Queen Mary was averted. In contemporary 
life, George Chapman was thirty-five years of age; 
Christopher Marlowe, twenty-eight; Shakespeare, 
twenty-eight; Ben Jonson, nineteen; Sir Walter 
Raleigh and Edmund Spenser, forty; Francis 
Bacon, thirty-one; Richard Hooker, thirty-eight; 
and Joseph Hall, eighteen. Thomas Cartwright 
was in prison in the Fleet, London. William Per- 
kins was preacher at St. Andrews. Henry Jacob 
was twenty-nine; Robert Browne, forty; Francis 


Johnson, thirty; Henry Ainsworth, twenty-one. 
Barrow and Greenwood were spending their last 
year of life on earth in the Fleet prison. This was 
the general situation. 

Cambridge University as a whole was strongly 
colored by Puritanism. The atmosphere of the 
place was liberal, and there certainly was consider- 
able laxity in the enforcement of rigid uniformity 
of worship. The leaders of the Separation were 
almost universally Cambridge men. 

Corpus Christi, or Benet College, was one of the 
smaller of the Cambridge group. Its Master when 
Robinson entered was Jegon, who was also Vice- 
• Chancellor of the University. It may have had 
about one hundred and ten students at this time. 
Robert Browne, his coworker, Harrison, and John 
Greenwood had all been students at this college. 

We have no particulars concerning the course of 
John Robinson's student life in Cambridge so far 
as its objective details are concerned. He took a 
degree at the university, for Joseph Hall writes to 
him, " You have twice kneeled to our Vice-Chan- 
cellor, when you were admitted to your degree. " * 
Whether this was the master's or the bachelor's 
degree we cannot determine. In 1598 or 1599 
Robinson became Fellow of the university, and 

1 "Common Apologie," p. 90. 


probably soon after that took up his work as a 
curate in the Church of England. 

It was while he was a member of the church estab- 
lished by law in England that his personal religious 
life .began. He speaks of it in the defense of the 
Separation which he made against Richard Ber- 
nard, 1 as follows: 

"We do with all thankfulness to our God ac- 
knowledge, and with much comfort remember, 
those lively feelings of God's love, and former 
graces wrought in us, and that one special grace 
amongst the rest by which we have been enabled 
to draw ourselves into visible covenant, and holy 
communion. Yea with such comfort and assurance 
do we call to mind the Lord's work of old this 
way in us, as we doubt not but our salvation was 
sealed up unto our consciences, by most infallible 
marks and testimonies, which could not deceive, 
before we conceived the least thought of separa- 
tion; and so we hope it is with many others in the 
<. Church of England, yea, and of Rome also. " 
/ " And for our personal conversion in the Church 
/ of England we deny it not, but do, and always 
S have so done, judge and profess it true there." 
Religion was a matter of personal relationship 
between Robinson's soul and God, rather than an 
official relationship in an ecclesiastical institution. 
He described it in the terms of the prevailing 
Calvinistic theology as the bestowment upon him 

1 See Works, 2: 65, 75. 


of a special divine grace. For the individual this 
was enough to enable him to unite himself into 
covenant relations with God. This change of 
life Robinson described reverently. It was rad- 
ical. It embraced his whole being. From that 
time on he was a "new man in Christ Jesus. " If 
Robinson entered the university at the age of sev- 
enteen it is hardly likely that an experience of 
which he speaks so profoundly would have come 
into his life before that age. We are probably 
safe in ascribing the change which Robinson calls 
his conversion to the period of his university 
career. It was a time peculiarly adapted to a 
fundamental examination of his personal relations 
to God, and for the settlement of the purposes 
which should thereafter control his life. We shall 
discover that he was very sensitive to personal 
influences, and that the greatest decisions of his 
life were reached through personal contact with 
men whose opinion and character he respected. 
So far as we can determine the forces which oper- 
ated upon him in Cambridge to transform the 
motives of his life, they emanated chiefly from 
William Perkins. He was the catechist of Christ's 
College, and lecturer at St. Andrew's Church. 
Robinson always held Perkins in the highest 
esteem, speaking of him as ' l one of our own 


nation, of great account, and that worthily, with 
all that fear God, however he were against us in our 
practice. " * Robinson also wrote and published 
a supplement to Perkins' "The Foundation of the 
Christian Religion," which book, he says, fully 
contains "what every Christian is to believe 
touching God and himself. " a The supplement 
published by Robinson takes up the subjects 
peculiar to Separatist teaching only. Hence Rob- 
inson found in the teachings of Perkins those 
fundamental truths necessary to religious conver- 
sion, as he conceived it. 

Robinson took orders in the Church of England. 
In 1610 he classes himself with John Smyth and 
others of the Separation as having ' ' renounced 
our ministry received from the bishops, and d o 
exer cise another by the people's choice. " 3 In 
thus entering upon his life 's work he was following 
out the native bent of his character and taking up 
a duty which he loved. He was a pastor rather 
than a controversialist, and when, later in life, he 
was drawn into the intense and often bitter dis- 
cussions which attended the Separation, he wrote, 

" The preaching of the gospel is a most excellent 
thing, and the fruits of it far better than those of 
Eden, and oh! how happy were we, if, with ex- 

1 Works, 2: 446. a Ibid., 3: 426. » Ibid., 2: 406. 


change of half the days of our lives, we might 
freely publish it to our own nation for the con- 
verting of sinners. " l 

This first slight glimpse which we get into the 
heart of the young minister shows us a man of 
simple, noble purpose, the whole trend of whose 
life is religious, seeking through the avenues of 
preaching and pastoral care to give himself lav- 
ishly to the weal of his fellow men. He is such a 
spirit as we should expect to find expressing him- 
self through the avenue of the Christian ministry. 

The general nature of his short term of pastoral 
service in the Church of England we can construct 
from what we know of the man's nature, and from 
a few slight contemporary witnesses. It was a 
time filled with earnest, faithful service to his 

Neal says: 2 — 

"Mr. John Robinson was a Norfolk divine 
beneficed about Yarmouth, where being often 
molested by the bishop's officers, and his friends 
almost ruined in the ecclesiastical courts, he re- 
moved to Leyden, and erected a congregation upon 
the model of the Brownists/' 

If Robinson was a curate or rector at Yarmouth, 
this parish never occupied the place in his heart 

1 Works, 3:37. 

* ' 'History of the Puritans, " 1 : 244. 


that was held by another place where he worked, 
Norwich. Henry Ainsworth, who probably came 
from the region of Norwich himself, says in his 
" Counterpoyson " : 1 — 

"Witness the late practice in Norwich, where 
certain citizens were excommunicated for resort- 
ing unto and praying with Mr. Robinson, a man 
worthily reverenced of all the city for the graces 
of God in him (as yourself also, I suppose, will 
acknowledge) and to whom the care and charge 
of their souls was erewhile committed. " 

Here Ainsworth definitely describes Robinson's 
position as having established his reputation in 
the city of Norwich itself. Hence, it would seem 
that the sphere of his labor was near Norwich or in 
the very city. 

The same conclusion must be drawn from the 
preface of one of Robinson's minor writings, "The 
People's Plea for the Exercise of Prophecy," in 
which he dedicates his treatise " To my Christian 
Friends in Norwich and thereabouts. " 2 In the 
course of this dedication he says, " And for you, 
my Christian friends, towards whom for your 
persons I am minded, even as when I lived with 
you, be you admonished by me." The entire 
tone of this preface and dedication is like the 

1 Edition of 1642, p. 145. 

» Works, 3: 285 ff. ..-'^ '•"•: 


tenderer letters of St. Paul to the congregations 
which he had gathered, but from which he had 
been compelled to separate. Robinson still bore 
his people upon his heart, rejoiced in their suc- 
cess, and sorrowed with their trials and perscu- 

Let us look briefly now at the general religious 
character of this region about Norwich. Norfolk 
had received the great influx of refugees who had 
been driven out of the Netherlands during the 
period of Roman Catholic persecution. These 
immigrants represented the best of the Flemish 
weavers, and they brought prosperity particularly 
to Norfolk and London. The city of Norwich 
was thereby advanced to a position of commer- 
cial leadership second only to London. In 1587 
the Dutch and Walloons formed a majority of the 
city's population. But they brought more than 
their frugality and skill in the textile arts. 
They were Protestants ; many among them be- 
belonged to the despised Anabaptists. It was 
among these people that the Lollard movement 
took deepest root and spread most rapidly. 
Norfolk was the chief sufferer in the persecutions 
during the reign of Queen Mary. Norwich was 
early counted as a Puritan stronghold. There 
Robert Browne had gathered his first church, a 


few members of which probably remained and 
perpetuated their organization as late as 1603. 

This was the general character of the sphere in 
which Robinson, coming from the strong Puritan 
atmosphere which he evidently had breathed in 
Cambridge, began his ministry. The former Master 
of Corpus Christi College, Jegon, became Bishop 
of Norwich in February, 1602. Robinson soon 
became involved in trouble with the ecclesiastical 
authorities, probably oh account of failure to con- 
form in the use of the ceremonies prescribed by the 
Prayer-Book. The trouble at first was not seri- 
ous. He was subject to the same annoyance and 
discipline that Richard Bernard, and other Puritan 
preachers, met occasionally. The whole difficulty 
might have been obviated had he been willing 
to conform fully to the requirements of the Prayer- 
Book. As he retorts to Bernard, "We might 
have enjoyed both our liberty and peace, at the 
same woeful rate with you and your fellows' ' — 
that is, by conformity. * 

But Robinson never complained of what he had 
suffered. Nor did he move forward because he 
was driven by resentment. He seems to have 
moved slowly, and he shrank from taking the step 
of final separation until he had exhausted every 

1 See Works, 2: 54. 


expedient which would enable him to remain in 
the Church of England and still preserve his con- 
victions regarding its communion, polity and wor- 

He evidently sought to free himself from the 
censure which he had received. Joseph Hall says 
to him, " As for absolution, you have a spite at it, 
because you sought it, and were repulsed." 1 

In what way Robinson thus sought to set him- 
self right with the church authorities we do not 
know. But the next step which he took, proba- 
bly after he had been suspended from the minis- 
try, certainly before he had either left Norwich or 
decided fully for Separation, was to attempt to 
secure a chaplaincy to some nobleman, or to serve 
in a private chapel or hospital. Here the condi- 
tions of conformity were not so rigid, and it was a 
frequent expedient with the Puritan preachers. 
He applied, therefore, for the Mastership of the 
hospital at Norwich, but failed to secure it. While 
this matter was pending, Robinson probably re- 
mained, a suspended minister, in Norwich. His 
attitude is probably fairly represented by Joseph 
Hall, who says: — 

"Tell us, how long was it after your suspension 
and before your departure, that you could have 

1 "Common Apologie," p. 77. 


been content, upon condition (that is, the appoint- 
ment to a chaplaincy or the hospital) to have worn 
this linen badge of your ' man of sin?' Was not 
this your resolution when you went from Norwich 
to Lincolnshire after your suspension?" 1 

There is another reference to the same fact by 
Hall, in the "Common Apologie" 2 as follows: 

"Before that God and his blessed Angels and 
Saints, we fear not to protest, that we are undoubt- 
edly persuaded, that whosoever wilfully forsakes 
the Communion, Government, Ministry, or Wor- 
ship of the Church of England, are enemies to the 
Septre of Christ, and Rebels against his Church 
and Anointed: neither doubt we to say, that the 
Mastership of the Hospital at Norwich, or a lease 
from that city (sued for with repulse), might 
have procured that this Sep. fr. the Com. Govt. 
& Worship of the Ch. of Eng. should not have 
been made by John Robinson. " 

The time soon came, therefore, when Robinson 
found that a restoration to his clerical office was 
impossible; his friends were suffering heavy losses 
by fines from the courts; and there was, at least 
near Norwich, no place in which he could exercise 
his ministry without full conformity. He went, 
he tells us, to many places where he hoped to find 
satisfaction to his "troubled heart. " There is a 

* See Hanbury, "Historical Memorials," 1: 198. 
' Page 113. 


tender pathos in the few words with which Robin- 
son refers to his experience at this great crisis in 
his life. All his desires were set toward ministry 
in the church. He longed to preach; he yearned 
to carry forward his task of pastoral care in a 
parish. The testimony of Bastwick 1 is probably 
trustworthy as showing the real ground of Robin- 
son's decision: — 

" If I can speak thus much in the presence of 
God, that Master Robinson of Leiden, the pastor 
of the Brownist Church, there told me and others, 
who are yet living to witnesse the truth of what I 
now say, that if he might in England have in joyed 
but the liberty of his Ministry there, with an immu- 
nity but from the very Ceremonies, and that they 
had not forced him to a subscription to them, and 
impressed upon him the observation of them, that 
hee had never separated from it, or left that 

He did not reach the decision easily. He went 
to many places seeking help in his trouble. Among 
these, he visited Cambridge. He had come to the 
point where he saw plain arguments warranting 
separation; but he did not yet take the step. 
Reaching Cambridge he went to hear a forenoon 
lecture by Lawrence Chadderton, who had been 
Master of Emanuel College since its foundation 

1 "The Utter Routing of the Whole Army of all the Independents & 
Sectaries," 1646, cxvii. 


in 1584, and was a famous lecturer. The lecture 
which he heard was to the effect that " the things 
which concerned the whole church were to be de- 
clared publicly to the whole church and not to 
some part only/' This seemed to him to confirm 
one main ground of the Separatist teaching, that 
is, " that Christ hath given his power for excommu- 
nication to the whole church." In all the parish 
assemblies he could find no church having this 
power or so exercising it. 

In the afternoon of the same day he went to 
hear a lecture by Paul Baynes, the successor of 
William Perkins in St. Andrews. The theme of 
this lecture also fitted the questioning mood of the 
hearer. It was "the unlawfulness of familiar 
conversation between the servants of God and the 
wicked." Some years afterwards Robinson was 
able to reproduce the argument of this lecture in 
brief outline, showing that he took notes of it or 
listened most intently. In private conversation 
with Baynes soon afterward he questioned the 
lecturer as to whether his position did not neces- 
sitate a separation in spiritual matters of the 
righteous from the apparently wicked, even in the 
parish assemblies. 

The influence of these Cambridge men upon 
him was very strong. He does not give us any 


details concerning his movements from Cambridge 
to Gainsborough. All we know is that he finally 
appeared in more or less intimate connection with 
a Separatist congregation which had been formed 
there. If Gainsborough was his early home it 
is quite natural to account for his appearance 
there. He had become a Separatist during the 
time after he left Norwich. 

Let us turn now to the subjective history of 
Robinson's decision for the Separation. We 
have a fairly satisfactory record of it here and 
there in his writings. The first impression that 
we receive concerning it is that the whole mental 
change is the natural result of those forces which 
we have found working upon him in his environ- 
ment. His experience is not to be explained as 
the result of a solitary struggle. The lone agony 
and the new vision which had been experienced 
by Luther were not the way in which Robinson 
came to his final position. As Marcks says of 
John Calvin, * " he was penetrated slowly by the 
new spirit; he did not need to build for himself 
his own way to knowledge;" Luther had done 
this for himself and for all men. 

At the outset Robinson was a member of the 
State Church, and his ambitions were toward its 

1 Life of Coligny, Vol. 1: p. 282. 


ministry. So far as the doctrines of that church 
were concerned he held them without dissent. 
Like Barrow, he made a distinction between 
the "faith" and "order" of the Church of Eng- 
land. Of the former he made no question. All 
the difficulty he experienced was with the latter. 

The general influences of Cambridge we have 
noted. It must have been while here that he 
began to read books written in defense of the 
Separation, "the taste of which," he says, was 
"sweet as honey unto my mouth." 1 But he did 
not go to the extreme of Separation. The per- 
sonal influence of men like Perkins held him 
firmly in check. Here we discover one of the 
determining traits of his character, his thorough 
respect for the learning and judgment of others. 
Indeed, this becomes at times almost an element 
of weakness with him. He found it necessary to 
apologize for the fact that he did not follow out 
his very first convictions to their logical conclu- 
sion in Separation by saying: — 

"The very principal thing, which for the time 
quenched all further appetite in me, was the over- 
valuation which I made of the learning and holi- 
ness of these [Cambridge men, such as Whitaker, 
Perkins, Cartwright, and others] and the like per- 
sons, blushing in myself to have a thought of 

1 Works, 2: 51. 


passing one hair breadth before them in this thing, 
behind whom I knew myself to come so many 
miles in all other things." 

So he began his ministry. The theoretical life 
of the student was exchanged for the practical 
life of the pastor. Theories concerning church 
government came to the test of practical use. It 
was a question as to which form of polity would 
enable the church to realize its ideal of a commun- 
ion of saints. This was the Calvinistic concep- 
tion which Robinson held concerning the church : 
it was a body of men and women who gave visible 
signs of the spiritual change known as regeneration. 
With this conception of the church the young min- 
ister, a man of ethical earnestness, encountered 
the parish system of the Church of England in a 
region whose atmosphere was permeated with 
radical thought concerning the true order of church 

This was a new stage in Robinson's experience. 
The question of theory became a question of prac- 
tice. At first the ceremonies were a rock of offense 
to him. But now he faced the question, Could 
the church, as organized under the parish system, 
effect its own purification? That purification was 
necessary in order to a true church. If the 
Church of England was powerless to this end, then 


some other form of church government was imper- 
ative. The whole question was open again, this 
time from another point of view. Again there 
was the same sense of weight to be given to the 
opinions of other men ; but the final court of appeal 
was not human opinion; it was the Scriptures. 
Robinson tells the story himself briefly: — 

" Yea, and even of late times, when I had entered 
into a more serious consideration of these things, 
and, according to the measure of grace received, 
searched the Scriptures, whether they were so or 
no, and by searching found much light of truth; 
yet was the same so dimmed and overclouded 
with the contradictions of these men and others 
of the like note, that had not the truth been in my 
heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones (Jer. 
20 :9) I had never broken those bonds of flesh and 
blood, wherein I was so straitly tied, but had 
suffered the light of God to have been put out in 
mine own untruthful heart by other men's dark- 
ness.' ' 

Therefore, convinced by practical experience 
that the "order" of the Anglican Church was 
incapable of realizing the ideal of the church as 
the communion of saints, and sure that the Scrip- 
tures prescribed another "order," in which gov- 
ernment by bishops formed no part, Robinson 
followed the light of his new conviction and became 


a Separatist. He cast in his lot among his breth- 
ren at Gainsborough. We shall now follow him 
as he moves forward quickly to a secure position 
of leadership among them. 




«Mi *^°* 



The gathering of the Scrooby congregation in 
the old manor house could not go on without at- 
tracting the attention of the officers of the Church 
of England, who were compelled to alertness by 
the severe penalties which the canons of 1603-4 
pronounced against those who failed to present 
non-conformists for punishment. The Separatist 
ministers were silenced, the people who sympa- 
thized with them were subjected to the contempt 
of their fellows, and finally the heavy hand of the 
law was laid upon them. They were cited before 
the courts and life was made a burden for them. 
They endured it patiently for years. 1 

The most earnest of the Puritan ministers in 
the vicinity were not at all unwilling to see the 
schismatic movement crushed out by drastic meas- 
ures, and there are witnesses to the fact that a 
few of them were personally ready to bear a hand 
in' it. In 1600 Francis Johnson had written, 

1 See Bradford, "Of Plimoth Plantation," Boston, 1898, p. 12. 


"not the Prelates alone, but you also [i.e. the 
zealous Puritans] have wittingly and willingly 
your hand in our blood. " l The strife between the 
Puritan preachers and the Separatists in the neigh- 
borhood became sharp. One of them, Richard 
Bernard, according to the testimony of John Rob- 

" did separate from the rest an hundred voluntary 
professors into covenant with the Lord, sealed 
up with the Lord's Supper, to forsake all known 
sin, to hear no wicked or dumb ministers, and the 
like, which covenant long since you have dissolved, 
not shaming to affirm you did it only in policy 
to keep your people from Mr. Smyth." 2 
This shows how sharp the collision was between 
the men who had advanced to the pronounced 
positions of Puritanism, and the men who were 
carrying out those positions to their full logical 
conclusion. It was a struggle for life between the 
two sorts of congregations. 

So, subjected to a cross-fire from the alert Angli- 
can officials on the one side and the exasperated 
Puritan preachers on the other, the Separatists 
in Scrooby met such persecution as to make their 
life almost unendurable. Then they turned long- 
ing eyes to Holland. The conditions of religious 

1 "An Answer to Master H. Jacob his Defence, " 1600. 
* Works, 2: 101. 


toleration which obtained there were well known; 
it was accessible by ship from such ports as Hull 
and Boston; and there was before them for their 
encouragement the example of the Ancient Lon- 
don Church and John Smyth's congregation. 

But it was one thing to reach their decision to 
emigrate, as Bradford says they did "by joynte 
consent/' and quite another to carry out their 
plans. It was against the laws of the realm for 
any one to leave the ports of England without the 
king's consent. Just why such a law should be 
enforced against the poor Separatists, of whom 
the church authorities were glad to be rid, and 
whose offenses made them the legitimate objects 
of banishment, is hard to see. It was enforced, 
however, and so the Separatist leaders were com- 
pelled to make secret bargains with sea captains 
and to pay exorbitant rates for passage. 

The first attempt was made by "a large com- 
panie" of the Scrooby congregation, who bar- 
gained with a captain for the exclusive use of his 
ship. He agreed to meet them at a specified time 
and place and to take them and their goods to 
Holland. This captain was an Englishman, and 
the place of meeting was near Boston. 

The date of this enterprise can be determined 
with tolerable accuracy from the official records 


concerning William Brewster. The declared ac- 
counts of Sir John Stanhope for wages of post- 
masters on the road between London and Berwick 
contain the amounts paid to William Brewster 
from April 1, 1594, until they ceased September 
30, 1607. We can be certain that Brewster did 
not yield his official position, which involved so 
vitally the whole Separatist interest in Scrooby, 
until he was compelled to do so by openly joining 
in the emigration. Therefore the first movement 
toward Holland probably took place in October 
and November, 1607. * , 

The perfidy of the English captain, however, 
involved it in disaster. He delayed his coming 
beyond the time agreed upon, thus involving the 
poor people in great anxiety and expense. Then 
he took them on board and betrayed them all to 
the officers. The Boston officials who seized the 
would-be exiles treated them harshly, took them 
to the shore in open boats, searched and rifled 
them, and made them a public spectacle in the 
town. The magistrates, however, seem to have 
been more lenient with them. They were, indeed, 
committed to prison, whence they could not be 
released without the consent of the Privy Council. 

1 The whole matter of Brewster's relation to the Scrooby post-office 
is worked out in Arber, "Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, " pp. 71-86. 


This permission came within the course of a month, 
when all were released and sent home with the 
exception of seven, who were kept in prison and 
bound over to the assizes for trial. 

Who these seven were we cannot tell. Doubt- 
less Brewster was openly connected with the move- 
ment and probably also Robinson, Clyfton and 

In the spring months of 1608 another attempt 
was made by a considerable company, including 
many who had failed in the Boston effort, and 
others who had not before ventured upon the 
dangerous enterprise. This time they entrusted 
themselves to a Dutch captain, who agreed to 
meet them at a meadow on the shores of the mouth 
of the river Humber between Hull and Grimsby. 
The women and the goods were sent ahead in a 
small boat; the men were to meet them by land. 
But either the small boat was a day too early or 
the Dutch captain a day too late,- and the small 
boat put into a creek, where she grounded. The 
next morning the ship came and took a part of the 
men on board; but before the women and goods 
could be taken from the small boat, which was 
still grounded, the officers came, the Dutch cap- 
tain set sail, and the poor emigrants were divided. 
The men on board the ship suffered an intensely 


stormy passage of two weeks before they finally 
reached Holland. The officers were left with a 
company of women and innocent children on 
their hands, whom they could hardly punish and 
were finally glad to release. Thus the second 
effort of the emigrants failed. 

They seem to have learned wisdom from these 
disasters. They saw that any effort to escape 
in a body was bound to be futile. The nucleus 
which escaped with the Dutch captain were already 
in Holland and thus could aid their brethren from 
that side. Therefore they escaped, a few at a 
time. In the picturesque words of Bradford, — 

" they all gat over at length. Some at one time, 
and some at another; and some in one place and 
some in another: and met together again, accord- 
ing to their desires, with no small rejoicing. " ! 

Such were some of the trials through which 
the Separatists passed in their effort to reach Hol- 
land. The results of it were twofold. The arrest 
of so many people at Boston and Hull awakened 
discussion, and brought the Separation more and 
more to popular attention. And then the hard- 
ship through which the people passed sifted out 
the weak and faint-hearted. Twice the Pilgrim 
Fathers were thus sifted ; once, when they removed 

1 "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 21. 


from Scrooby to Amsterdam; again, when they 
made the emigration from Leyden to Plymouth. 
They were men of sturdy stuff. 

The Scrooby brethren were compelled to move 
to Holland slowly. Not all of them went over. In 
1614 Robinson referred to the members of his con- 
gregation still remaining in England. x Among the 
last to leave were Robinson, Brewster and ' other 
principall members." This was the natural thing 
under the conditions. Robinson carried out the 
same plan in the later emigration from Leyden 
to America, remaining in Holland with the weaker 
members of his church, and planning to go to 
America so soon as he should be able to leave. 

Among the last to leave Scrooby was Richard 
Clyfton. By this we are able to determine the 
date when the Scrooby congregation finally gath- 
ered in Amsterdam. For, in the family Bible of 
Richard Clyfton 's son Zachary, there occurs this 
entry : — 

"Richard Clyfton, with his wife and children, 
came to Amsterdam, in Holland, August 1608." 
We may be quite sure that Clyfton was among the 
leading members of the Scrooby company who 
were the last to come over from England. Hence, 
the time occupied by this effort to reach Holland 
was from about October 1, 1607, to August, 1608. 

1 See Works, 3: 102. 


Thus the Scrooby brethren found themselves 
at last together in Amsterdam. It was a city in 
which there was large freedom in religious mat- 
ters. Andrew Marvell wrote, . 

" Hence Amsterdam, Turk-Christian-Pagan-Jew, 
Staple of sects, and mint of schism grew; 
That Bank of Conscience, where not one so strange 
Opinion but finds credit and exchange/' ' 

And, in an open letter to John Robinson, which 
probably reached him soon after he arrived in 
Amsterdam, Joseph Hall says of the city, "Lo! 
there a common harbour of all opinions, of all 
heresies if not a mixture. " 2 And it is probably 
true that, at this time, "you might understand 
more of England at Amsterdam than at London. " 8 
On reaching the city, Robinson found several 
congregations of English-speaking people who 
were allowed freedom of worship by the magis- 
trates. There was a Scotch Presbyterian church, 
whose minister, Rev. John Paget, wrote "An 
Arrow against the Separation of the Brownists" 
in 1618. This book gives evidence that he knew 

\ quite intimately the history of the Separatist con- 

\ gregations in the city. 

1 "Satires. Character of Holland, " p. 71. 

'Quoted in Robinson's "Answer to a O 


a See Mullinger, "Introduction to English History," p. 318. 

'Quoted in Robinson's "Answer to a Censorious Epistle," Works. 


The Ancient London Church had been in Am- 
sterdam, passing through a stormy period of 
existence, since 1597. In his book, "The Story 
of the Pilgrim Fathers," Arber makes a severe 
arraignment of this church on the ground of the 
immoral character of its members. His indict- 
ment rests upon the trustworthiness of certain 
sources which surely are open to question on that 
point, and it is to be doubted if the character of 
this Ancient London Church is as black as he paints 
it. It is, however, a sad story of family and church 
wrangling at the best. The year during which 
the Scrooby brethren resided in Amsterdam was a 
period of repressed hostility between the factions 
in the Ancient Church. The old troubles were 
still alive, and this fact was evidently clear to Rob- 
inson, who was as far-sighted an observer of men 
as he was an ardent lover of peace. 

The other congregation, of which John Smyth 
was pastor, may have numbered among its mem- 
bers some of the very neighbors of the Scrooby 
Church in England. At the beginning the Gains- 
borough company probably worshiped with the 
Ancient London Church; Smyth was a restless 
soul, who could not be at peace long under the 
most favorable conditions. He soon made a point 
of conscience of minor matters, and withdrew from 


the fellowship of the Ancient Church. Finally he 
became a Baptist, was cast out of his congrega- 
tion, and the storm in his church was at its height. 
This condition of things was intolerable to a man 
of Robinson's temper. 

Meantime, what was the condition of the Scrooby 
church in Amsterdam? It has been maintained 
sometimes that the Scrooby brethren were united 
with the Ancient London Church while in the city. 
Joseph Hall, in his "Common Apologie of the 
Church of England," calls Francis Johnson, pas- 
tor of the Ancient London Church, the "pastor" 
of John Robinson. This would imply that Robin- 
son was a member of the Ancient Church. Noth- 
ing can be inferred from Hall, however, concerning 
the real situation in Amsterdam. He probably 
knew only that the congregations from the vicinity 
of Gainsborough had emigrated, and supposed that 
they were united with the older congregation. 
Much more light is thrown upon the matter from 
Bradford's statement that when the Scrooby 
church prepared to move from Amsterdam to 
Leyden, and Richard Clyfton chose not to go with 
them, they dismissed him to the Ancient London 
Church. This action would not have been taken 
if the Scrooby church had not maintained sepa- 
rate existence during the Amsterdam sojourn. 


Probably the Scrooby church met for worship, 
perhaps together with the Ancients, in a large 
and gloomy building, which had been a convent, 
and stood in the street that still bears the name 
of the Brownists' Alley, from the fact that the 
English Separatists met there. 

We have avoided up to this point any discus- 
sion of the question of Robinson's official relation 
to the Scrooby church. Now it must be taken up. 

At the very beginning we are brought face to 
face with considerable confusion in regard to the 
matter. There are at least two sets of opinions. 

The first is that the officers of the church were 
chosen in Scrooby before the emigration, and that 
Richard Clyfton was the pastor and John Rob- 
inson the teacher. This is claimed with varying 
accents of certainty by Morton^ Dexter, * Arber, 2 
John Brown, 3 Goodwin, 4 and Dunning. 5 Walk- 
er 6 thinks that the greater age and pastoral 
experience of Clyfton make it likely that he was 
chosen pastor rather than Robinson; but it may 
have been the reverse. He quotes Bacon also as 

1 "The Story of the Pilgrims," 1894, pp. 80, 84. 

* "The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers," 1897, pp. 29, 64. 

8 "The Pilgrim Fathers of N. E.," 1895, p. 127. 

4 "The Pilgrim Republic," 1888, pp. 25, 26. 

8 "Congregationalists in America," p. 73. 

c "Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism, " p. 83. 


saying that Clyfton was pastor and Robinson 

On the other hand, the relative offices are re- 
versed by Hunter, 1 who is followed by Henry 
Martyn Dexter. 2 Hanbury 8 is generally confused. 
These writers, however, place the organization in 
Scrooby before the emigration. 

Ashton, 4 also, in the introductory memoir to 
Robinson's "Works," thinks that Clyfton was 
chosen the pastor of Scrooby church, and that 
Robinson was unofficially associated with him. 
He holds that Robinson never was formally called 
to the pastorate until Scrooby church reached 
Leyden. This is probably the ground upon which 
the author of the article on Robinson in the 
"Dictionary of National Biography" states that 
Robinson was "publicly ordained" pastor after 
Scrooby church reached Leyden. 

In all this conflict of opinion there seems to have 
been too little effort to get at the sources, which 
are limited and obscure enough at the best, in the 
writings of Robinson himself, and in Bradford. 

The first reference in Robinson's writings which 

1 "Collections," Ac, 1854, p. 41. 

2 "Congregationalism as Seen, etc." p. 317. "The True Story of 
John Smyth," p. 6. 

3 "Historical Memorials," 1: 28n., 185, 272. 

4 pp. xxi and xxx. 


we will consider is from his " Defence of the Doc- 
trine propounded by the Synod of Dort," printed 
in 1624, where he says, — 

"And for me, do they not know in their con- 
sciences that I was ordained publicly upon the sol- 
emn calling of the church, in which I serve, both 
in respect of the ordainers and ordained?" * 

The second reference is from the concluding 
words of the preface to Robinson's treatise, "Of 
Religious Communion," 1614, from which it is 
clear that the rigid Separation was the reason why 
Robinson could not unite with Smyth, and the 
same matter was brought up when he was chosen 

"I was," he says, "by some of the people with 
him [Smyth], excepted against, when I was chosen 
into office in this church. Indeed afterwards 
finding them of other churches, with whom I was 
most nearly joined, otherwise minded for the most 
part, I did . . . remit and lose of my former 
resolution.' ' 2 

.Now this points almost unmistakably to the 
year spent in Amsterdam. For the arguments in 
favor of the rigid separation in Robinson's book, 
"Justification of Separation from the Church of 
England/' must have been brought into shape 

1 Works, 1:463-464. 
* Works, 3: 103. 


either during the last part of his sojourn in Am- 
sterdam or soon after he reached Leyden. It was 
during the year in Amsterdam also that he was 
most closely in contact with other churches, to the 
personal influence of which he ascribes the great 
change in his ideas. In Amsterdam, also, it would 
have been most natural that an objection to him 
might have come from members of John Smyth's 

From Robinson let us turn to Bradford. He 
says that "besides other worthy men," there were 
in the Scrooby Church, " Mr. Richard Clyfton, " 
"Mr. John Robinson, who afterwards was their 
pastor for many years," "also Mr. William Brew- 
ster . . . who afterwards was chosen an elder of 
ye church." l Here Clyfton is not called pastor, 
which would be a strange omission, inasmuch as 
the official relation borne to the church by both 
Robinson and Brewster is mentioned. Bradford 
is as provokingly indefinite as Robinson in his use 
of the term "afterwards." 

There is another reference to Clyfton in Gov- 
ernor Bradford's "Dialogue," in which he says, 

"He belonged to the church at Leyden; but 
being settled at Amsterdam, and thus aged, he 
was loath to remove any more; and so when they 

1 "Of Plimoth Plantation," 14. 


removed, he was dismissed to them there, and there 
remained until he died. " * 

We have referred to this testimony of Bradford 
as indicating that the Scrooby church maintained 
a separate existence in Amsterdam. It would 
seem very strange, however, that Clyfton should 
be referred to simply as ■" belonging " to the Leyden 
church if he had been their pastor either in Scrooby 
or in Amsterdam. 

But there is a still more definite statement in 
Bradford's "History." He says: 

"Now when Mr. Robinson, Mr. Brewster, & 
other principall members were come over, (for they 
were of ye last, & stayed to help ye weakest over 
before them,) such things were thought on as 
were necessarie for their setling and best ordering 
of ye church affairs. And when they had lived 
at Amsterdam aboute a year, Mr. Robinson, their 
pastor, and some others of best discerning/' etc. 2 

This seems pretty conclusive evidence. Brad- 
ford does not speak of this as a further or more 
complete settling of the church affairs, but refers 
to it as the first definite organization. When the 
last of the Scrooby brethren are leaving England, 
Robinson is a "principall member" only. But, 
while they were passing through the period of 

1 See the Volume "New England's Memorial," Boston, 1855, p. 354. 
8 "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 22. 


"aboute a year" in Amsterdam, Robinson seems 
to acquire the title of pastor, by which title he is 
thereafter known by Bradford. 

Still further conclusive is the petition, to which 
we shall refer soon, for permission to settle in Ley- 
den, which is headed in the name of "Jan Ro- 
barthse [John Robinson], minister of the Divine 
Word." This petition was acted upon February 
12, 1609, previous to which date John Robinson 
must have been made a minister. He had, as we 
have seen, renounced his ordination in the Church 
of England. Therefore, before February 12, 1609, 
he must have been ordained by the Scrooby church. 
But in August, 1608, he was only a principal mem- 
ber of that church. 

Therefore, we believe that the Scrooby church, 
gathered in and about the English hamlet of that 
name, was first organized with officers in Amster- 
dam by the choice of John Robinson as pastor, 
somewhere between August, 1608, and February, 

Is there anything inconsistent with this condi- 
tion in the principles of the Separatists? They 
made a distinction between the church "gath- 
ered" and the church fully organized and admin- 
istered by its officers. According to the teaching 
of Robinson, whenever two or more faithful people 


separate from the world and unite by covenant 
into the fellowship of the gospel, they form there- 
by a true church, having all the power of Christ 
to choose and ordain their officers. This is the 
"church gathered." The officers are the natural 
agents through whom the powers resident within 
the church are exercised, and officers ought to be 
chosen for the full settlement of church order. 
But, without officers, a church has the power to 
receive members, to excommunicate those found 
deserving the penalty, and to hold services for 
edification of prophesying and exhortation. 1 The 
sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper 
could not be enjoyed without officers, however. 

There is nothing in that fraternal and informal 
life in Scrooby which demanded perfection of or- 
ganization by the choice of officers. It was a 
company of men and women gathered under con- 
ditions similar to those under which the earliest 
companies of Christian believers gathered. They 
needed most of all a meeting-place where, in a 
simple service, they might edify one another and 
fortify the weaker members to endure^'persecution. 
When they reached Amsterdam these conditions 
changed. They needed to take their place as a 
fully organized church along with the^other Eng- 

1 "Justification of Separation," 2: 235. 


lish-speaking congregations in the city. Hence, 
the conditions of the two locations give antecedent 
probability to the very action which we have con- 
cluded did take place, the organization of the 
church with officers for the first time in Amster- 

The transition from the country life of England 
to the confusion of a cosmopolitan city like Am- 
sterdam was a startling change for the Scrooby 
church. They were able, however, to find the 
means of livelihood there more readily than they 
could have done in a city that was not a seaport. 
So far as the matter of self-support and freedom 
of conscience were concerned they had found 
Amsterdam admirably suited to their necessities. 
There were other causes which made the place 
untenable for permanent residence by a man whose 
"vehement desire for peace" and passion for 
righteousness were as strong as these motives were 
with John Robinson. There was something in the 
general moral condition of the city which led him 
to fear for the welfare of his congregation. He 
was obliged to admit "the hellish impieties ,, of 
the city of Amsterdam during his time of residence 
there. The greatest reason, however, which in- 
duced him to seek another place of residence for 
his church was the hopeless condition of the sister 


churches in the city. He was unable to do any- 
thing to pacify the factions in Smyth's company; 
he saw the immediate prospect of renewed hos- 
tilities in the Ancient Church. So the new!pastor, 
with his best counselors, began to look about for 
another and a better environment. » 

The significance of this fact we must not fail 
to observe. The history of the Separation up to 
this time exhibits loyalty to conviction and clear 
definition of principles. But the one thing lack- 
ing was a leader, wise, far-sighted, and strong 
enough to take these principles, involving the 
elements of danger that they did, and so embody 
them in a practical enterprise that the true mean- 
ing of the Separatist theory would be evident. 
Browne had failed; Barrow had failed; Johnson 
had failed and was still failing; Smyth was mak- 
ing a miserable spectacle of his congregations in 
Amsterdam. The Separation seemed doomed to 
complete disaster unless a new champion should 

We have evidence from Robinson's writings 
that he realized keenly the dangers involved in the 
principles of the Separation. 1 He believed that 
the fundamental convictions of the Separatists 
rested upon a deeper knowledge of the real 
teachings of the Scriptures, a larger freedom in 

1 See Works, 3: 99, 100. 


their application, and a more abundant zeal for 
their embodiment in an institution, than the 
principles underlying any other religious order. 
This knowledge, freedom and zeal, however, if 
unwisely employed by the Separatists, Robinson 
told them very plainly would inevitably result 
in the very contentions for which their foes con- 
demned them and which he deplored. But peace 
is not a sign of knowledge; the peace of the 
church was never so great as when it was in the 
very midst of the deepest, darkest and densest 
ignorance of popery. Knowledge must be guarded 
with special watchfulness lest it engender strife. 
So must zeal "be tempered with much wisdom, 
moderation, and brotherly forbearance." And 
only those who enjoy liberty know how hard it is 
to use it aright. There is something in freedom 
which begets strife unless this danger is resolutely 

This keen analysis of the dangers in the Sepa- 
ration was not an academic exercise on Robin- 
son's part. He recognized these perils. He acted 
in view of them. And at no point in his career 
are his foresight and sound judgment more in 
evidence than when he decided that it would be 
impossible for him to realize the ideal of the 
Separation in the environment of Amsterdam. 


We are not sure of all the reasons that deter- 
mined him to seek Leyden, but one of them surely 
was the fame of the great University, which was 
one of the strongest in Europe at that time. The 
disadvantage of the smaller city as a place of resi- 
dence on the practical side was perhaps overbal- 
anced by this. It was necessarily more difficult 
for the Separatists to support themselves in Ley- 
den than it would have been in Amsterdam. 

They petitioned for leave to settle in the fol- 
lowing form, which is recorded, perhaps somewhat 
freely, in the language of the Clerk * in the Ley- 
den Court Registers: — 

" To the Honorable the Burgomasters and Court 
of the City of Leyden: With due submission and 
respect: JAN ROBARTHSE, minister of the 
Divine Word, and some of the members of the 
Christian Reformed Religion, born in the King- 
dom of Great Britain, to the number of one hun- 
dred persons, or thereabouts, men and women, 
represent that they are desirous of coming to live 
in this city, by the first of May next, and to have 
the freedom thereof in carrying on their trades, 
without being a burden in the least, to any one. 
They, therefore, address themselves to your Hon- 
ors, humbly praying that your Honors will be 

1 The phrase "in this city" would indicate either this, or that the peti- 
tion was the work of some of Robinson's company then resident in 


pleased to grant them free consent to betake them- 
selves as aforesaid." 

The Court acted on this petition on February 
12, 1609, and declared that "the coming of the 
memorialists will be agreable and welcome. " 

Two points are worthy of note. The first is 
that, if Robinson reached Amsterdam in August, 

1608, at about the same time with Clyfton, and 
planned the removal to Leyden early in February, 

1609, the space of six months suffices for him to 
come to a clear knowledge of the Amsterdam con- 
ditions and determine upon the new plan. 

The second is that the Scrooby brethren state 
that they are in such financial condition or 
masters of such trades that they will be no public 
burden. We know, however, that they were not 
rich, and that the struggle was a severe one for 
them. We may conclude, therefore, that Robinson 
had already organized his congregation for mutual 
help in some way, and may infer a beginning of 
those practical enterprises for the common good 
of the congregation which we shall see taking 
definite shape later, and which make the Scrooby 
church quite unlike the other Separatist congre- 
gations of the time in the saving common sense 
which they exhibited. 

Before leaving Amsterdam Robinson wrote and 


published the first tract that we have preserved 
from his hand. There is this difference to be noted 
between the Separatist movement in and about 
London and that in the region of Gainsborough: 
while the leaders of the former wrote and published 
a great deal, the latter movement produced no 
literature, so far as we know. One of the most 
romantic episodes in the history of the Separation 
is the manner in which the imprisoned leaders of 
the Ancient London Church prepared the copy, 
smuggled it to Holland and secured the publica- 
tion and distribution of their books. 1 One reason 
why this was possible was doubtless the ease with 
which London could communicate with the con- 

The brethren in Gainsborough and Scrooby, on 
the other hand, probably made no attempt at the 
written defense of the Separation. At least we 
have nothing preserved in the literature of the 
movement there. Robinson only began to pub- 
lish when he had reached Holland. 

It was a time when there was no such thing as 
freedom of the press in England. Printing was 
carried on chiefly in London, and was possible 
elsewhere at only five places. In London the 
ownership and use of type and a printing-press 

1 See page 19. 


by persons not meeting the conditions of this 
ownership was a crime punished by imprisonment. 
These conditions were that, first of all, they should 
have attained a certain rank in the "Company 
of Stationers"; but, among these, the master 
printers alone were allowed to have hand printing- 
presses. In May, 1615, there were but nineteen 
printing-shops for private printing in all London, 
at the head of each one of which was a master 
printer. But these nineteen men controlled only 
thirty-three hand-presses. These presses were 
locked up every night, and the work in each shop 
was carefully investigated every week by offi- 
cers of the "Company of Stationers." Every 
book was required to be licensed by a represen- 
tative of the Church and by one of the wardens 
of the Company of Stationers before it could be 
printed. Therefore, every book was under com- 
plete control of bishop and king. 1 

Under these circumstances it is not surpris- 
ing that we have nothing from the leaders of the 
Separation about Gainsborough in the way of 
printed writings. It is remarkable that we have 
so much from the imprisoned Separatists in 

In Amsterdam, however, Robinson was free. 

1 See Arber, "Story of the Pilgrim Fathers," pp.18-20. 


And he began to write. We shall consider the 
tract which he published there, and the large 
treatise which he doubtless began there, in the 
following chapter. 

If the intention of the Scrooby church as ex- 
pressed in their petition to settle in Leyden was 
carried out as regards time, they probably reached 
their new home about the first of May, 1609. 
Here John Robinson spent the remainder of his 
life and did his noble work. To this work we shall 
now turn our attention. 






John Robinson was a Separatist. He reached 
his decision after a time of intense struggle. 
Having become convinced that the Separation 
ought to be made, he became the resolute definer 
and defender of the truth as he saw it. That 
truth had been taught by Robert Browne and by 
Henry Barrow with different degrees of emphasis 
laid upon one phase or another of it. Robinson 
was called into controversy with the antagonists 
of the Separation and made his peculiar con- 
tribution to the history of the movement as 
his predecessors had done. It was a significant 
contribution. It was made in the face of oppo- 
sition from both Anglican and Puritan writers. 
The sources which we shall use are the brief reply 
which he (Robinson) made to the Anglican, 
Joseph Hall, and the most ambitious of his works, 
the " Justificati on of Sep a ration ," 1 against the 
Puritan, Richard Bernard. We shall not dwell 

1 This treatise occupies the entire second volume of Robinson's Works 
as published in three volumes. It will be cited in the footnotes of this 
chapter simply by the page to which reference is made. 



upon the detailed arguments, which are often 
tedious and sometimes shallow; but we will take 
up the outline of the Anglican Church order as 
we have studied it briefly from the Canons of 
1603-4, display the general scope of Robinson's 
attack upon it, and then exhibit the positive and 
constructive side of his work in his conception of 
the true church according to the New Testament 

It was sometime during the year 1608 that 
Joseph Hall, an able minister of the Church of 
England, and later one of her bishops, who had 
learned something of Browne's doctrines while in 
Middelburg, and had also heard of the Separation 
around Gainsborough, addressed a letter to John 
Smyth and John Robinson as the "Ringleaders" 
of the movement. John Robinson replied to 
this letter by "An Answer to a Censorious 
Epistle," which is preserved in the reply to 
it made by Hall under the title, "A Common 
Apologie of the Church of England." Robinson 
wrote the reply to Hall's letter while he was in 
Amsterdam, and also sent it out from that city. 
It is a tract which interests us chiefly from the 
fact that it is the first writing of Robinson which 
remains to us, and that it shows him in the light 
of a thoroughgoing Separatist. 


The second source exhibits fully the position 
of Robinson as a champion of the Separation. 
It is entitled, "A Justification of Separation 
from the Church of England against Mr. Richard 
Bernard his Invective, entitled The Separatist's 
Schisme. ,, It was begun at Amsterdam during 
the year of residence there, and finished and pub- 
lished in Leyden in 1610. Rev. Richard Bernard, 
in reply to whose book, "Christian Advertise- 
ments and Counsels of Peace," it was written, 
was a vicar of the Church of England, whose 
parish was Worksop, in the neighborhood of 
Scrooby, and who had personally known both 
Smyth and Robinson there. At times he had 
seemed on the point of becoming a Separatist, 
but he had always returned to conformity to the 
Church of England. Yet he was a Puritan, and 
wrote arguments against the ceremonies which 
were imposed upon the church by the Prayer- 

From these two sources, therefore, we may ex- 
pect a fair view of the arguments for the Separa- 
tion as they were urged against both the Anglican 
and the Puritan by John Robinson. 

From the perspective of the present, this debate 
over the reasons for the Separation cannot appear 
to us so important or so interesting as a later 


controversy concerning the extent of Christian 
communion which we shall take up. But at the 
time this large book on the Separation was Rob- 
inson's most important work. He probably 
rated it as the greatest service which he performed 
for the cause he loved and defended. And, if 
we seek sympathetically to enter into it, we shall 
find the study of its arguments and propositions 
a matter of vital interest. 

Before we turn to these let us notice the temper 
of the time in respect to controversy. When 
Robinson took up his pen in defense of the 
Separation it was not for the pleasure of a scho- 
lastic exercise. He had suffered; so had his peo- 
ple. Those were not soft times. It was an age 
of invective and unsparing rebuke because it 
was a time when opinions were a matter of life 
and death. Men did not make apologies as a 
preliminary exercise to the process of decapita- 
tion; they struck quickly and fiercely, intending to 
give fatal blows. This is the quality of argument 
which we find in these discussions. Robinson's 
temper is gracious, and his terms are generous, 
in comparison with many of his contemporaries. 
But there is no little harshness in his method 
as he deals with his opponents. 

On the negative side, let us review his attack 


upon the Church of England, as we have already 
studied it at the close of Chapter I. 

So far as the royal supremacy is concerned, 
Robinson is an Englishman, loyal to the core to 
the king. He says, 

" The King indeed is to govern in causes eccle- 
siastical, but civilly, not ecclesiastically, using the 
civil sword, not the spiritual, for the punishing of 
offenders. 1 

Hence the king is not the head of a national 
church, holding a unique position. If he is a 
church officer, he is called to that office and may 
be deposed from it by the church. He is, then, 
only a ruling elder and inferior in position to a 
teaching elder. Robinson does not discuss the 
question at length, since he is far more deeply 
concerned with the office of the bishop. But, in 
spite of his loyalty to the monarch, his denial of 
the validity of a national church sweeps away 
the doctrines of the royal supremacy, as it was 
commonly held. 

Then he denies the apostolic character of the 
Church of England. He shows how different 
the method of gathering the apostolic Church 
was from that by which the Church of England 
was brought together. When Christ and the 

1 Page 278. 


apostles gathered the true Church of the New 

"they did not by the co-active laws of men 
shuffle together good and bad, as intending a 
new monster or chimera, but admitted of such, 
and none other, as confesssed their sin and jus- 
tified God, as were not of the world, but chosen 
out of it." 1 

The New Testament Church was composed of 
" saints." 

Against this argument both Hall and Bernard 
replied that, while this was doubtless true, there 
were yet wicked members in the churches even 
in the apostles' day, and this fact did not make 
them false churohes. The abuses at Corinth did 
not make it necessary for the true Christians in 
Corinth to separate from the church there and 
form a new one of their own. 

We come here to a critical point in the entire 
Separatist position. Robinson takes it up fully 
in his replies to both his opponents. He admits 
that there were wicked members in the apostolic 
churches, and that this fact did not make it nec- 
essary for those who were holy in those churches 
to separate from them. But, when this is made 
a warrant for remaining in the Church of England, 

1 Page 121. 


there is this essential difference to be observed, 
which makes the Anglican argument of no value. 
These apostolic churches had the power resident 
within them, the power of Christ given to the 
members of the church, to purify themselves 
and to reform abuses. But in the Church of 
England this power exists no longer, having been 
usurped by the bishops and the church thus 
robbed of that which makes it a true church, 
that is. the power to reform itself. We must not 
lose the force of this argument. It has an ethi- 
cal basis; it roots in the demand for righteous- 
ness. For the early Separatists it was decisive. 
It was not the mingling of good and bad in the 
national church, but the fact that, under the 
episcopal order, the power of self-purification 
lodged by God with the people was lost, which 
drove John Robinson into Separation. 

What, then, was the real ground of this Sep- 
aration, against which the canons pronounced 
such censure, and concerning which Joseph Hall 
wrote to Robinson, "even murders shall abide 
an easier answer than separation"? Ainsworth 
had held that the separation was from the cor- 
ruptions in the church and not from the corrupt 
church. Hall thought at the outset that this 
was Robinson's position, and, therefore, did not 


class him as a thorough Separatist. But Rob- 
inson takes the ground in his "Answer" that 
the separation is not from certain corruptions 
which are manifest chiefly in the ceremonies, 
but from the church itself, which is essentially 
corrupt because of the wickedness within it which 
it is impotent to reform. Hall, therefore, in 
his "Apologie" brands Robinson as a complete 
Brownist. This position is elaborated in the 
discussion with Bernard. It is in reality another 
statement of the old principle of "connivance 
at sin." When Bernard asks why Robinson can- 
not remain within that church where his con- 
version took place, and expend his zeal there for 
its purification, the answer is that Separation 
from that church is necessary in order to avoid 
personal sin. He says, 

" But this I hold, that if iniquity be committed 
in the church, and complaint and proof accord- 
ingly made, and that the church will not reform 
or reject the party offending, but will on the 
contrary maintain presumptuously and abet such 
impiety, that then, by abetting that party and 
his sin, she makes it her own by imputation and 
enwraps herself in the same guilt with the sinner. 
And remaining irreformable either by such mem- 
bers of the said church as are faithful, or by 
other sister churches, wipeth herself out of the 


Lord's Church-roll, and now ceaseth to be any 
longer the true church of Christ. , n 

Exactly this condition, Robinson maintained, 
existed in the Church of England as it was then 
constituted. Separation, therefore, was not a 
form of registering a protest against the cere- 
monies prescribed by the Prayer-Book or the 
form of church government by bishops. It was 
a necessity in order to avoid personal sin. The 
extent to which the Separation must be carried 
we will notice later when we consider more fully 
Robinson's positive teaching. 

So far as the creed named in the canons was 
concerned, Robinson was ready to accept the 
Thirty-nine Articles, or the older Forty-two. 
He charged Hall with the fact that erroneous 
heresies concerning free will were stealing in 
among the ministers of the Church of England, 
but he did not enter into any discussion of dogma 
as distinct from polity. He acknowledged " many 
excellent truths of doctrine, which we also teach 
without commixture of error/' in the Church 
of England. But Robinson maintained that the 
order of the church was an essential part of any 
body of doctrine. He said: 

"Since Jesus Christ, not only as priest and 

'Page 260. 


prophet, but as king, is the foundation of his 
church; and that the visible church is the King- 
dom of Christ; the doctrines touching the sub- 
jects, government, officers, and laws of the church 
can be no less than fundamental doctrines of the 
same church or kingdom." 1 
And again, 

" The order which Christ hath left in the Evan- 
gelists, Acts, and Epistles to Timothy and Titus, 
is a part of the Gospel and the object of faith 
as much as any other part of it." 2 

It is often said that the entire Separatist con- 
tention was concerning polity and not concern- 
ing theology, as if, after all, the Separation was 
made on the ground of an external quibble in- 
stead of being based upon something which was 
essential, involving faith, and utterly necessary 
to the existence of a true church. Robinson was 
perfectly clear on this point. Polity was a part 
of a divinely given body of truth. Apart from 
any question of the right or wrong of their con- 
viction, it must be clear that the Separation 
was made by men who believed that church pol- 
ity was as much an essential part of church doc- 
trine, and as much an object of faith, as the Being 
of God or the Person of Christ. The question of 
the true order of the church was not a matter 

1 Page 397. * Pages 22, 287. 


of external form or accidence; it was fundamental 
and worth contending for at the risk of life itself. 
We will dismiss very briefly Robinson's at- 
tack upon the Church of England. The idea of 
a national church, he maintains, is the attempt 
to return to the Old Testament order, which 
has been done away with forever by the insti- 
tution of the order laid down by Christ and the 
apostles in the New Testament. In that order 
there is no trace whatever of the prelatic system 
employed in the government of the Church of 
England. " Your grand metropolitans, your arch- 
bishops, bishops, suffragans, deans, archdeacons, 
chancellors, officials, and the residue of that 
lordly clergy" 1 find no warrant in the simple 
church order of Christ and the apostles. The 
parish system is also repugnant to the idea of 
the church as a communion of saints. "With 
what conscience," he asks, "can any man plead 
the saintship of all that godless crew in the Eng- 
lish assemblies?" The Anglican worship, too, is 
false, since the ceremonies of the Prayer-Book 
have usurped the highest place, and the preach- 
ing of the Word, which is the supreme function 
of worship, is omitted because of the inability 
of the Anglican ministers in a vast number of 

1 Page 171. 


Robinson's attack, which is often harsh, but 
generally less venomous than was the custom 
in his day, is pretty well fortified by citing the 
witness of men whose books he possessed, or by 
appeals to his own knowledge of the conditions 
in such parishes as Worksop. 

We have passed hastily the negative side of 
Robinson's -argument in order that we might 
devote more space to the positive and construct- 
ive teaching which appears everywhere in his 
writings. For, while Robinson is intense in his 
controversy, he is not merely destructive. He 
defends his positions by maintaining positive 
doctrine rather than by wholesale attack upon 
his opponents. 

Let us look at his conception of the true church. 
It is drawn entirely from his definition of the 
perfect model in the New Testament. The exi- 
gencies of controversy lead him to emphasize 
one or another of the elements in the definition 
at different times; but he preserves it through- 
out in these general terms: 

"A company, consisting though but of two or 
three, separated from the world, whether un- 
christian or antichristian, and gathered into 
the name of Christ bv a covenant made to walk 


in all the ways of God known unto them, is a 
church, and so hath the whole power of Christ/ n 
First, then, the true church is an individual 
congregation. Robinson bases this claim upon 
the fact that Jesus and the apostles in the begin- 

"appointed none other true visible churches 
but particular congregations of faithful people." 2 

The subject matter of the church is persons 
who have separated themselves from the world, 
that is, are "saints." The regenerate character 
of the persons forming the true. Church is set 
over against the condition of the parishes in the 
Church of England in sharp contrast. 

But this company of "saints" is not merely 
united by the simple spiritual bond which must 
link all believers according to the necessary affini- 
ties of their life in Christ. They are "gathered" 
into companies for communion and mutual help- 
fulness. The true church exists in an organized 

The bond in this organization is not allegiance 
to any system of church government or group 
of officers. It is a covenant with God, who is 
the source of all light and the object of all love, 
to walk in his ways. We must not fail to notice 

1 Page 132. * Page 388. 


the terms of the Scrooby covenant. It does 
not consider the revelation of God's will as yet 
perfectly made. Those early Separatists cove- 
nanted to walk in all his ways "made known, 
or to be made known" unto them. They were 
going to school to God. The windows were open 
to the light. Their faces were set forward. That 
splendid covenant stands as an open challenge 
to every one who charges the Pilgrim Fathers 
with bigotry and hardness. 

And lastly, this single congregation, thus united 
in covenant, has the whole power which Christ 
gave his Church, lodged within itself. No man 
or body of men, no state or assembly, is to do 
for it what God has equipped it to do for itself. 
It is to choose its minister and ordain him; it is 
to receive or expel its members; it is to endow 
its ordained officers with the power to admin- 
ister the sacraments. 

This is the Church of the Separation standing 
out in marked contrast with the elaborate eccle- 
siastical system outlined in the Canons of 1603- 

We must notice at this point Robinson's posi- 
tion concerning polity, as defining his place among 
the leaders of the Separation. It turns on the 
discussion of where the "ruling power of Christ' ' 


is placed. The starting-point of the discussion is 
Bernard's statement that 

"the Papists plant the ruling power of Christ 
in the Pope; the Protestants, in the bishops; 
the Puritans, in the presbytery; the Brownists, 
in the body of the congregation, the multitude 
called the church." 

Robinson's general teaching concerning polity 
may be grouped to advantage about this state- 

In. the first place, he resents any insinuation 
that the elders do not fully exercise the func- 
tions of government in the Separatist congrega- 
tions. He says, 

"We profess the bishops, or elders, to be the 
only ordinary governors of the church." l 

He then proposes a medley of polity, wandering 
in the dark toward what we should now term 
democracy. There are, he claims, three kinds of 
polity for the church which are good and lawful: 

" monarchical, where supreme authority is in the 
hands of one; aristocratical, when it is in the 
hands of some few select persons; and demo- 
cratical, in the whole body or multitude. And 
all these three forms have their places in the 
Church of Christ. In respect of him, the Head, 
it is a monarchy; in respect of the eldership, an 

1 Page 7. 


aristocracy; in respect of the body, a popular 
state." 1 

This is not a new idea. In the fourth Martin 
Marprelate tract of 1588-89 the same general 
thought had been advanced. But Robinson car- 
ries it out fully. In the first place, although the 

"Lord Jesus is the King of his Church alone, 
upon whose shoulders the government is, and unto 
whom all power is given in heaven and earth," 

he has nevertheless communicated this power to 
the members of the church, making each mem- 
ber a prophet, to teach; a priest, to offer the 
spiritual sacrifice of praise and prayer for him- 
self and others; and a king, to guide and govern 
himself and others in the ways of godliness. Thus 
the power of Christ is imparted directly to the 
members of the church. But just as the exigen- 
cies of actual government might bring a multitude 
of kings together to consult concerning common 
interests and administer their mutual affairs, in 
which case they would choose and appoint some 
few to be over them for the purpose of the 
orderly administration of those affairs, "so in 
this royal assembly, the Church of Christ, though 
all be kings," yet some are set over the rest to 
govern in an office which is a service of ministry. 

1 Page 140. 


Thus arises in the church, from the demo- 
cratic function lodged within it by God the King, 
the aristocracy of the presbytery. 

"The Lord Jesus/' says Robinson, " hath given 
to his church a presbytery, or college of elders or 
bishops ... for the teaching and governing of 
the whole flock according to his will; and these 
the multitude, jointly and severally, is bound to 
obey, all and every one of them. " * 

But it is one thing for the officers to govern the 
church and the people to be bound to obey them; 
it is quite another thing to say " the church is the 
officers." The latter statement Robinson repudi- 
ates. The power of the officers is given to them 
" mediately by Christ from the church. " 

And yet, near as this is to democracy, Robin- 
son is so anxious to defend himself and his church 
from the charge of "anarchy" and "confusion," 
that he is unwilling to allow the Separatist polity 
to be called "democratic." Although he asserts 
that in the church all have equal power and voice, 
the officers only guiding them in their action, as 
is the case of the speaker in the House of Com- 
mons, yet he expressly says, 

" The external church government under Christ, 
the only mediator and monarch thereof, is plainly 

1 Page 142. 


aristocratical, and to be administered by some 
certain choice men, although the state, which 
many unskilfully confound with the government, 
be after a sort popular and clemocratical." l 

Here appears one of those fine distinctions which 
we shall find sometimes appearing at critical 
junctures in Robinson's writing. The Church, 
in its ideal relation to its invisible Head, is a 
monarchy; in the authority which it possesses 
and exercises, it is a democracy; but its external 
system of government is an aristocracy, the elders 
being the chosen agents for the exercise of the 
ruling power of Christ. This was Robinson's 
theory. Before we can classify his position in 
relation to Barrow and Browne, however, we 
must see how he organized his church practically 
in Leyden. 

The church comes first; then the officers are 
chosen; and a company of Christian believers 
gathered into covenant relations may be called 
a church even if they have no officers. We have 
called attention to this point in discussing the 
matter of the complete organization of the Scrooby 
church in Amsterdam. 

Looking at the New Testament model, Robin- 
son finds that there were five classes of officers 

1 "Just and Necessary Apology, " Works, 3: 42. 


appointed for it. These were apostles, prophets, 
evangelists, pastors and teachers. The first three 
were temporary. The last two are permanent. m 
Pastors and teachers may be assigned to par- 
ticular congregations only. They may both be 
called elders or bishops. The pastor is ruling 
elder; the teacher, teaching elder. Of these the 
teaching elder is far more important than the 
ruling elder; even the king himself, as a ruling 
elder, would be inferior to the teaching elder of 
a church. There is no such thing as a ministry 
at large; the minister of a congregation ceases to 
be a minister if the congregation be dissolved. 
There is no such thing as an " order" of the 
ministry. The minister (either pastor or teacher) 
is one of the brethren and does not cease to be a 
brother in the church when chosen to his office. 
He must possess the mental and spiritual quali- 
fications for such an office, be examined, chosen 
and ordained by the church, and be subject to 
their censures in case of misconduct or infidelity. 
In concluding this study of the grounds of the 
Separation we must observe to what extent it 
was to be carried. We have seen already that, 
after an intense struggle, Robinson reached his 
decision for the Separation and went to Gains- 
borough, where he found John Smyth carrying 


his doctrine to the bitter end, and insisting upon 
a complete withdrawal from every act of religious 
communion, even to the extent of reading the 
Scriptures and private prayer, between the Sep- 
aratists and members of the Church of England. 
It was on this account that Robinson refused 
to join Smyth and later cast his fortunes with 
the Scrooby brethren. We should, therefore, ex- 
pect to find him, in these first controversies, 
maintaining the same position which he had held 
against Smyth. We are no little surprised, then, 
to discover him an advocate of the rigid Separa- 
tion in his debate with Bernard. Two of the 
errors which Bernard charged against the Sepa- 
ratists were that they refused to hear any min- 
isters of the Church of England preach, and that 
they held it to be unlawful to join in prayer with 
any of them. 

Robinson defends the Separatists in this respect. 
He says, 

• "Communion is a matter of order or relation; 
the holiness of a man's person is not sufficient 
[warrant] for communion, but withal it must 
be ranged into the order of a church, wherein 
both his person and actions must combine." 

Therefore, he concludes, 

"we ought to communicate both in prayer, and 


in all the other ordinances of God, with all God's 
children, except they themselves hinder it, or 
put a bar; which we are persuaded they in the 
Church of England do, in choosing rather the 
communion of all the profane rout in the Kingdom 
under the prelates' tyranny, than the communion 
of saints, which Christ hath established under his 
government." * 

And so, although the ground is not covered by 
any lengthy argument for the practice, Robinson 
here commits himself to the rigid Separation. 

We turn, therefore, to seek the reason for this 
change. He gives it himself in the preface of a 
treatise issued in 1614, in which he returned to 
his first position. Here he says concerning his 
argument with Bernard, 

"Indeed afterwards [that is, after his election 
as pastor of the Scrooby church, when he was 
objected to by members of John Smyth's church 
on the ground that he was not a rigid Separatist] 
finding them of other churches, with whom I 
was most nearly joined [in Amsterdam], other- 
wise minded for the most part, I did, through 
my vehement desire of peace, and weakness 
withal, remit and lose of my former resolution; 
and did, to speak as the truth is, forget some 
of my former grounds; and so have passed out 
upon occasion some arguments against this prac- 

1 Pages 463, 464. 


tice [of communion in private prayer with mem- 
bers of the Church of England]." l 

It was the force of personal influence, there- 
fore, on the part of the Separatist leaders in Am- 
sterdam, supplemented by a temper which was 
strongly given to all that would make for peace, 
which brought Robinson to make this change. 
He was never heartily convinced of the truth of 
the new position, he tells us; and he made the 
mistake of yielding for the sake of what seemed 
the deeper harmony of the Separatist churches. 
It is a noble confession of error which he makes 
in the later treatise. We shall have occasion 
to refer to this again when we study his individ- 
ual contribution to the Separation in his epoch- 
making discussion on this very matter of religious 
communion. At this point we see him sacri- 
ficing a conviction in the interests of peace. That 
policy always fails. We shall see it fail with him. J 

1 "Of Religious Communion," Works, 3: 102. 





The journey from Amsterdam to Leyden, in 
the glorious spring of the year, was neither long 
nor arduous. The indication of the petition to 
the city authorities is that members of the church 
had already settled in Leyden, where they had 
made the arrangements for the removal, and 
where they would be ready to welcome their 
comrades upon their arrival. This was the nat- 
ural plan, for Robinson in every instance remained 
behind until the last of his congregation, the 
feeblest and oldest, were ready to move. 

Dr. Griffis, in his book, "The Pilgrims in 
Their Three Homes," has given a pen picture 
of the journey between the cities: 

"We can imagine the little flotilla freighted 
with household goods and crowded with plainly 
and soberly dressed English people, conspicuous 
among whom was the dignified John Robinson. 
In clerical garb, and wearing a cap which looked 
exactly like a watermelon cut in half, with per- 
haps a little band of lace around the bottom, 



and wearing also a ruff around his neck, he would 
be easily recognized." l 

On reaching the new home, Robinson was 
face to face with the problem of self-support for 
his people. They were farmers, and therefore 
could not quickly set themselves to profitable 
employment. At the same time they had prob- 
ably increased their difficulties by removing to 
a city which furnished less variety in occupation 
than Amsterdam had afforded. They must keep 
together as a company, which would have been 
impossible if they had gone outside the city to 
engage in agriculture. Thus the conditions of 
their life were hard. But there is little complaint 
about this in any of Robinson's writings. The 
church seems to have been united to a wonderful 
degree in its purpose, and practical wisdom pre- 
vailed in its counsels. As Bradford says, they 
were men "valewing peace and their spirituall 
comforte above any other riches whatsoever. " 2 
And their thrift and happiness enabled them fin- 
ally to establish themselves in Leyden in circum- 
stances of tolerable comfort. 

The trades to which the people set their hands 
were those connected with the manufacture of 

1 "The Pilgrims in Their Three Homes," p. 85. 
1 " Of Plimoth Plantation/ 1 pp. 23, 24. 


all kinds of woven goods. The preparation of 
the raw material and the manufacture of the goods 
were carried on in small factories, or more often 
in the homes of the toilers. The industrial revo- 
lution and the growth of the factory had not 
then taken place. It was in these small indus- 
tries connected with the manufacture of woolen 
goods that the people gained their livelihood. 

We cannot determine accurately the part of 
the city in which the Scrooby brethren settled, 
but it probably was in the newer and, there- 
fore, cheaper sections, which began to be opened 
up when the Great Truce between the Dutch 
patriots and their enemies gave assurance that 
for at least twelve years there would be a cessa- 
tion in the horrors of war through which Leyden 
had passed. 

The peace of the city was evident not only 
industrially, but religiously. There was a Pres- 
byterian church in the city, whose membership 
was made up of English and Scotch residents. 
This was established about the time that the 
Separatists reached Leyden, and its minister 
until 1616 was Rev. Robert Durie. They were 
granted a place of worship by the authorities. 

It was generally supposed at one time that 
the Scrooby brethren were also given a place 


of worship in Leyden by the magistrates. This 
rested upon references in Winslow's "Brief Narra- 
tion" and Prince's "Annals' ' (1736). The matter 
was sifted thoroughly by George Sumner, 1 and the 
unreliability of the witnesses to any such thing 
has been established. The influence of King James 
was very strong in Holland. Reference will be 
made later to the manner in which the Dutch 
authorities sought to carry out the wishes of the 
English king in the matter of the arrest of Wil- 
liam Brewster. The records of the city during 
the years of Robinson's residence there are com- 
plete, and there is no notice of any petition for 
a place of worship from the church, although 
the petition to immigrate is given. Indeed, 
there seems to have been quite another plan in 
Robinson's mind. This was to obtain a place 
large enough to serve both as his own residence 
and as a meeting place for his church. This plan 
he was evidently unable to carry out at once 
on his arrival in Leyden. We have no informa- 
tion as to where he lived before he entered the 
large house, the purchase of which is recorded 
in the following deed : 

1 See Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series 3, Vol. 9, pp. 42-74, "Memoirs of the 
Pilgrims in Leyden, " and Proceedings, Vol. 18, p. 210. 

(Occupied by house with arched door.) 


AMELIS VAN HOGEVEEN, Schepens [mag- 
istrates] in Leyden, make known that before us 
came JOHAN DE LALAING, declaring, for him- 
self and his heirs, that he had sold, and by these 
presents does sell, to JAN ROBINSZOON, Min- 
ister of G D ' S Word of the English Congrega- 
tion in this city, WILLEM JEPSON, HENRY 
married JANE WHITE — jointly and each for 
himself an equal fourth part — a house and ground, 
with a garden situated on the west side thereof, 
standing and being in this city on the south side 
of the Pieter's Kerckhoff near the Belfry; for- 
merly called the Groene Port." 

This is the first paragraph of the deed, 1 which 
was witnessed and sealed on May 5, 1611. There 
are two items especially to be noticed here. Rob- 
inson's name is associated with those of three 
members of his congregation in the enterprise. 
He seems to be the leader in the undertaking, as 
his name comes first. The entire project was 
undoubtedly carried through in the interests of 
the whole congregation, and formed one item in 
that large scheme for the permanence and wel- 
fare of his people which Robinson always kept 
in view. The other noteworthy incident is the 
mention of the fact in connection with the name 

1 The whole is printed in Arber, ' Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, " pp. 


of Thickens or Tickens that he had married Jane 
White. What reason can there be for this? The 
names of other wives are not given in the deed. 
Thickens was Robinson's brother-in-law, having 
married Jane White, sister to Mrs. Robinson, 
whose maiden name was Bridget White. The 
conjecture has been made that Jane White's 
name is mentioned in this deed for the reason 
that her husband's share of the purchase money 
was understood to come from her. If this is so it 
would imply that Robinson's wife may also have 
been the possessor of money in her own right. 
The whole matter, however, is merely speculation. 
The price of this property was eight thousand 
guilders, of which two thousand were paid down 
and the promise given that five hundred should 
be paid yearly, beginning in May, 1612, until 
the entire balance should be liquidated. This 
total sum was equal to about sixteen thousand 
dollars of our present American money. The 
first payment, therefore, was about four thousand 
dollars, of which John Robinson's equal share 
was one thousand dollars. The location of this 
property was most advantageous. It was over 
against the great Peter's Church, near the mili- 
tary headquarters of the city, and very close to 
the University. At the rear was the chapel of 


the Veiled Nuns' Cloister, where the congregation 
of Rev. Robert Durie met for worship, and on 
the upper floor of which the library of the great 
University was then placed. Also the land in 
the rear of the house was well adapted to the 
arrangement of a "hof," where small houses 
are built about a central court and the little com- 
munity composed of their inhabitants is screened 
from public view. With Robinson, in the enter- 
prise, was associated a carpenter, William Jep- 
son, and the erection of twenty-one small houses 
about the court was begun. Doubtless in these 
lived Separatist families which were in greater 
need of help than others. But, in spite of this 
paternal arrangement, we must not think of 
Robinson as here setting up any of those commu- 
nistic schemes which men like the Anabaptists, 
and others who laid great emphasis upon the New 
Testament model of the true Church, have erected 
from time to time with such disaster to their 
cause. Robinson's writings are free from any 
hint at such a theory. The Separatists were a 
brotherhood, bound by their covenant and by 
the hardness of their experience, to help one 
another. But their pastor was a far-sighted 
and well-balanced man, who was not led into 
excess of literalness in application, however he 


valued the New Testament model. In fact, his 
interpretation of the New Testament model was 
the true one. For "the so-called communism 
of primitive Christianity was simply the glad, free, 
domestic relationship of generous aid and serv- 
ice, such as any modern Christian congregation 
might legitimately strive to imitate. It did not 
abolish distinctions of rich and poor, still less 
did it enter the sphere of productive industry. 
Its economics were those of a loving family/' 1 
This was the principle which Robinson sought 
to embody in his practical enterprise in Bell Alley. 
It was, like his controversies, judicious, clear- 
sighted and fraternal. The pastor of the Pil- 
grim Fathers was a wise organizer. 

And now, that we may get a clear picture of 
the Leyden church in its permanent home in 
Bell Alley, let us listen to the quaint, sincere 
description of one of its strongest and most de- 
voted members, which is here reproduced in its 
original spelling: 

Being thus setled (after many difficulties) 
they continued many years in a comfortable 
condition, injoying much sweete & delightefull 
societie & spirituall comforte togeather in y« 
wayes of God, under ye able ministrie, and pru- 
dente governmente of Mr. John Robinson, & 

1 F. G. Peabody, "Jesus Christ and the Social Question," 1900, p. 24 


M>. William Brewster, who was an assistante 
unto him in ye place of an Elder, unto which 
he was now called & chosen by the church. So 
as they grew in knowledge & other gifts & graces 
of ye spirite of God, & lived togeather in peace 
& love, and holines; and many came unto them 
from diverse parts of England, so as they grew 
a great congregation. And if at any time any 
differences arose, or offences broak out (as it 
cannot be, but some time ther will, even amongst 
y« best of men) they were ever so mete with, 
and nipt in ye head betims, or otherwise so well 
composed, as still love, peace, and communion 
was continued; or els ye church purged of those 
that were incurable & incorrigible, when, after 
much patience used, no other means would serve, 
which seldom came to pass. Yea such was 
ye mutuall love, & reciprocall respecte that this 
worthy man had to his flocke, and his flocke to 
him, that it might be said of them as it once was 
of y* famouse Emperour Marcus Aurelious, and 
ye people of Rome, that it was hard to judge 
wheather he delighted more in haveing shuch a 
people, or they in haveing such a pastor. His 
love was greate towards them, and his care was 
all ways bente for their best good, both for soule 
and body; for besides his singuler abilities in 
devine things (wherein he excelled), he was also 
very able to give directions in civill affaires, and 
to foresee dangers & inconveniences; by w ch 
means he was very helpfull to their outward estats 


& so was every way as a commone father unto 
them. And none did more offend him then those 
that were close and cleaving to themselves, and 
retired from y« comraoe good; as also such as 
would be stiffe & riged in matters of outward 
order, and invey against ye evills of others, and 
yet be remisse in them selves, and not so carefull 
to express a vertuous conversation. They in 
like maner had ever a reverente regard unto 
him, & had him in precious estimation, as his 
worth & wisdom did deserve; and though they 
esteemed him highly whilst he lived & laboured 
amongst them, yet much more after his death, 
when they came to feele ye wante of his help, and 
saw (by woefull experience) what a treasure 
they had lost, to ye greefe of their harts, and 
wounding of their sowls; 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 ye Taborits 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 lamente, in another 
regard, their present condition, and after usage. 
But to returne; I know not but it may be spoken 
of ye honour of God, & without prejudice to any, 
that such was ye true pietie, ye humble zeale, 
& fervent love, of this people (whilst they thus 
lived together) towards God and his waies, and 
ye single hartednes & sinceir affection one to- 
wards another, that they came as near ye prim- 
ative patterne of ye first churches, as any other 


church of these later times have done, according 
to their ranke & qualitie. l 

After the house in Bell Alley had been purchased, 
Robinson lived there with his growing family of 
children. We have no satisfactory data from 
which we can determine either the date of Rob- 
inson's marriage or the ages of his children. Mrs. 
Robinson's maiden name was Bridget White. 
Her sister Jane married Randall Thickens. Dr. 
Henry M. Dexter conjectures 2 that another sister 
of Mrs. Robinson, Frances White, married Francis 
Jessop in Worksop, not far from Gainsborough, 
January 24, 1605. There is nothing certain about 
this, however. 

We are a little clearer concerning the names 
and number of Robinson's children. We have 
a tax list of the year 1622 which shows us that 
Robinson's family was the only one occupying 
the house itself. The list is as follows: 

John Robinson, preacher; Bridget Robinson, 
his wife; their children, John, Bridget, Isaac, 
Mercy, Fear, James; Mary Hardy, a servant 
maid." 8 

The existence of the university must have 

1 Bradford, "Of Plimoth Plantation," pp. 24-26. 

* "Congregationalism as Seen," p. 378. 

8 Griffis, "Pilgrims in their Three Homes," p. 240. 


been one of the strong attractions of Leyden for 
Robinson. And yet, he was not admitted to 
its privileges for some time after his arrival in 
the city. This is in marked contrast with the 
case of Rev. Robert Durie, the minister of the 
Presbyterian church that worshiped in the chapel 
close by the Robinson house. On April 27, 1610, 
Durie was matriculated, and is described as Min- 
ister of the English Church. But it was not until 
September 5, 1615, that Robinson was admitted 
as a student of theology, and in the records of 
the university he is described simply as "an 
Englishman/' This serves to show still more 
plainly that the Separatists never received offi- 
cial recognition as a church by the Dutch. The 
fear of giving "offence to ye state of England" 
was sufficient to prevent any public favor. Mem- 
bership in the university brought with it privi- 
leges of a literary and social nature which would 
be of value to Robinson. It also freed him from 
; the duty of acting on patrol in time of war, and 
' gave him the privilege of brewing a certain amount 
of beer without paying a tax. But the greatest 
privilege was the freedom which it gave him from 
< liability to arrest by any except the officers of 
' the university. This never served him any in 
practical life, but it might have done so had any 


of his books incurred the severe displeasure of 
King James. 

Meantime the church affairs were prospering 
and peace prevailed in the councils of the congre- 
gation. And the church came very soon to rep- 
resent a definite phase of thought and practice 
which was the result of its pastor's leadership. 
It still bore close relationships with Amsterdam; 
it worked out and pursued a policy of its own. 
In the succeeding chapters we shall study these 
elements in the Leyden life in order to determine 
John Robinson's real place in the history of the 
Congregational churches. 




We have followed the story of Robinson's life 
through the storm and stress of his decision for 
the Separation; we have seen him rise to a posi- 
tion of leadership in the suffering congregation 
gathered about Scrooby; we have witnessed his 
foresight in Amsterdam after he had become the 
head of the exiled church; we have discovered 
the signs of his strong personal command of the 
situation of the growing church in Leyden. Back 
of all this expanding influence lay a theological 
conviction, brought into definite system by for- 
mal statement. Robinson defined and defended a 
system of church polity. He was also the cham- 
pion of a system of theology. In this chapter 
it is not necessary to enter into any detailed 
examination of Robinson's theological positions. 
The main question that interests us is, rather, 
Do the purely theological teachings of Robinson 
display any signs of change? 

Robinson stood ready to accept the Thirty- 
nine Articles of the Church of England, with that 



Calvinistic interpretation which they will bear 
and which he gave to them. There are sources, 
however, from which we can draw much more 
fully in arriving at an adequate conception of his 
whole system of theology. 

The first of these is his treatise, "Of Religious 
Communion," the larger part of which is con- 
cerned with an answer to two books by Thomas 
Helwisse. One of these books, "A Declaration 
of the Faith of the English People remaining at 
Amsterdam," sets forth the creed of the Baptist 
church formed by John Smyth there, of which 
Helwisse was chosen pastor after Smyth's death 
in 1609. This "Declaration" was published in 
1611. Robinson's reply appeared in 1614. 

The second source is a reply to a book by John 
Murton, "A Description of what God hath pre- 
destinated concerning Man," published in 1620. 
Murton here attacks the Calvinistic theology of 
the creed sanctioned by the Synod of Dort, and 
specifically attempts to overthrow Robinson's posi- 
tion in relation to baptism. 

Robinson answered this with "A Defence of 
the Doctrine propounded by the Synod at Dort," 
published in 1624. We must remember that the 
fact of Robinson's championship of the truth 
embodied in this particular creed is not nee- 


essarily due to his belief that this was the one 
perfect and unalterable expression of the last 
word to be said upon Christian doctrine. This 
is a controversy and he is defending the specific 
cause attacked by his opponents, which, in this 
case, was the creed of the Synod of Dort. 

Between these two sources there lies a period 
of ten years, during the early part of which Rob- 
inson passed through certain radical changes of 
opinion regarding the practice of the Christian 
life. In theology, however, there is no radical 
change. The main positions urged against Hel- 
wisse in 1614 are those maintained against Murton 
in 1624. 

Let us look at these very briefly. It is a strug- 
gle between the ideas of God's absolute sover- 
eignty and the complete freedom of the will, 
the conflict between high Calvinism and protest- 
ing Arminianism. It is not a struggle involving 
mere opinions in speculative theology; it is a 
war between religious dogmas which are insepa- 
rably linked with political policies and the destiny 
of the state. It is, therefore, necessary to bear 
in mind the political as well as the religious sit- 

Beginning at the central point of the theology, 
the sovereignty of God, let us follow Robinson 


in a somewhat hasty fashion, in order that we 
may see not only what he believed, but the rea- 
sons upon which he seemed to himself warranted 
in resting his faith. 

The matter of God's decrees touching sin comes 
up for immediate treatment. 

"God hath not only foreseen and determined 
the issues and events of His works, but hath also 
decreed and purposed the works themselves before 
the foundation of the world." 1 

"The condemnation of wicked men by God, 
for sin by their free will to be wrought, was pur- 
posed by God before the world." 2 

"God's full foreknowledge of the course of 
human history makes necessary his full deter- 
mination of all that which he foresees." 8 

And yet God is not the author of human sin, 

"neither indeed is it sensible to say that God 
determined what the will of others would do." 

God does not command or work evil ; he is 

"the Supreme Governor of the whole world, 
and of all persons and actions therein, how sin- 
ful soever, using and ordering the covetousness 
of Judas, the envy of the priests, and injustice of 
Pilate, to the event of Christ's death, [actions] 
in regard of them most wicked, but of God, most 
gracious, and of us, most profitable." 

1 "Of Religious Communion," 3: 238. 

•"Defence," 1:279, 281. 

8 "Of Religious Communion," 3: 239. 


The first point to be observed here is that Rob- 
inson squarely faces the two facts of God's sov- 
ereignty and man's freedom. He asserts both 
and proposes the dilemma that results. 

"If any demand how this can be, that God,' 
who forbiddeth and hateth sin, yet should so 
order persons and things by his providence, and 
so from eternity purpose to order them, as that 
the same cannot be, I answer, by free acknowl- 
edgment that the manner of God's working 
herein is to me and to all men inconceivable." 1 

And yet Robinson realized that some effort 
must be made by the reason to answer the ques- 
tion. This effort he made in advancing two 
subtle "distinctions" to clear up the matter. 
The first is a difference between necessity and 
compulsion. Every human action is very com- 
plex; there are many forces at work whenever 
a choice is made. Therefore the choice may be 
viewed from many sides. If a man were struck 
so forcibly by a blow from outside that he abso- 
lutely could not avoid falling, it would be a case 
of compulsion. God never compels a soul in 
this way. But when we take such an act as the 
meeting of Ahab and Elijah (I Kings 21:18), we 
see how an action may be viewed in many ways. 

^•Defence." 1:274. 275. 


To Ahab this was a chance meeting; to Elijah 
it was the obedience of a divine command; it 
was an illustration of necessity but not of com- 
pulsion. Since God's will was carried out in it, 
it was a necessary action. 1 The second subtle 
J distinction lies in the fact that God may be " the 
j author of the action or fact, but not of the 
j sin of the fact." This becomes clearer when we 
* note Robinson's conception of sin, which is not 
"a thought, word, or deed contrary to the will 
of God," (as his antagonists held), but sin 
consists " in the contrariety which the same deed 
or motion hath in it to the law of God." Sin 
is "only the absence and want of that conform- 
ity and agreeableness, which ought to be in 
the thought, word or work of the reasonable 
creature to the law of God." Every action, 
therefore, is to be regarded intrinsically as an 
action, and then in regard to its moral quality. 
If a murder were committed, the deed must be 
considered both as a specific act and then as to 
its moral content; as, for example, it is clear that 
the execution of a condemned criminal by the 
magistrate and the killing of Amasa by Joab 
is, in the former case, a good action, and in the 
second case a bad action. So, God is the author 

11 'Defence," 1:291. 


of the intrinsic action, but not of the moral qual- 
ity, or the perversion of the right use of the action 
in which the sin consists. 

We have brought forward this specific instance 
of Robinson's argument, simply that the general 
tenor of a considerable body of his reasoning 
may be seen. His weakest point is always in his 
attempt to justify himself in places where he rec- 
ognizes the difficulties and contradictions of his 
position. He is a thoroughgoing Calvinist, and 
the fact that he could remain even partially sat- 
isfied with his "subtle distinctions" is striking. 
To Robinson's opponents this was "merely a 
fabulous riddle" and "marvellous sophistica- 
tion." But he was humble and earnest in his 
effort to handle "those high mysteries" of the 
divine sovereignty and human freedom. His/ 
arguments were not new, neither were they con-} 
vincing, and the real man is far less revealed in\ 
them than in his strong assertion of both terms I 
of the controversy, standing with a humble heart/ 
acknowledging that the mystery was inexplicable.! 

On only one other point is it necessary to dwell 
at any length. This is the matter of the Atone- 
ment. Man is in a state of sin which is the result 
of the transgression of Adam. This act came 
about by Adam's free choice, God having decreed, 


not the choice itself, but the conditions under 
which the choice was made. The sin followed, 
but not "as an effect upon a cause working it — 
God forbid! — but as a consequent upon an ante- 
cedent; or as an event necessarily following upon 
a most holy, wise, and powerful providence, so 
ordering and disposing, that the same should 
so come to pass infallibly, though performed by 
Adam's free, and freely-working will." 1 All 
Adam's posterity are born with a sinful dis- 
position for which they are responsible, and to 
change which a gift of supernatural grace is 
necessary. Atonement for this sin is made 
possible by the grace of God in the work of 
Christ. But the redemption is not universal. 
Christ's death is sufficient for all, since it was 
the death of him who was God; but it has not 
been made efficient for all. Christ died "effect- 
ually" for "them only that are saved." Christ 
did not die for all; but all for whom Christ died 
shall be saved. 2 

This is carrying the doctrine of election and a 
limited atonement to the extreme. Robinson 
does not hesitate to do this. He proposes no 
theory of the atonement; but he plainly limits i 
it to the elect. 

^•Defence," 1: 274. * Ibid., 1: 333. 


We will not take up more points in this survey 
of Robinson's theological writing. The cham- 
pion of Calvinism is radical and thoroughgoing, 
and there is no sign of mellowing in the austerity 
of his convictions during these ten years from 
1614 to 1624. The work which he did as a writer 
for the cause was supplemented by what he did in 
public debate. This brings up the matter of the 
so-called "Dispute with Episcopius." The his- 
torical situation was briefly as follows: 

The feature that distinguishes the German from 
the Dutch churches is the fact that the former 
are Lutheran and the latter Calvinistic. The 
Calvinistic theology, therefore, obtained suprem- 
acy in the Dutch church and was taught in the 
schools. The first radical modification of strict 
Calvinistic theology by an official teacher was by 
James Arminius, professor of theology at Ley- 
den, who died in October, 1609. Between him- 
self and his colleague Gomarus the controversy 
concerning predestination was waged bitterly so 
long as Arminius lived. The closing months of 
this personal contention marked the settlement 
of John Robinson and his company in Leyden. 1 
After an interim of two years, Arminius was 

1 Griffis, "The Pilgrims in Their Three Homes," p. 140, says that Ar- 
minius "died October 19, 1609, while the Pilgrims were in Amsterdam." 
The Scrooby brethren were settled in Leyden before that date. 


succeeded in the chair of theology in Leyden by 
Episcopius, who held that chair from 1611 until 
after the decree of the Synod of Dort banished 
him in 1618. During this time controversy in 
the University grew more intense. Robinson's 
part in it is thus reported by Bradford : 

"In these times allso were ye great troubls 
raised by y° Arminians, who, as they greatly mol- 
lested ye whole state, so this citie in particuler, 
in which was y° cheefe universitie; so as ther were 
dayly & hote disputs in ye schooles ther aboute; 
and as ye studients & other lerned were devided in 
their oppinions hearin, so were ye 2. proffessors or 
devinitie readers them selves; the one daly teaching 
for it, ye other against it. Which grew to that pass, 
that few of the discipls of y e one would hear ye 
other teach. But Mr. Robinson, though he taught 
thrise a weeke him selfe, & write sundrie books, 
besids his manyfould pains otherwise, yet he went 
constantly to hear ther readings, and heard ye 
one as well as ye other; by which means he was 
so well grounded in ye controversie, and saw ye 
force of all their arguments, and knew ye shifts 
of ye adversarie, and being him selfe very able, 
none was fitter to buckle with them then him selfe, 
as appered by sundrie disputs; so as he begane 
to be terrible to ye Arminians; which made Episco- 
pius (ye Arminian professor) to put forth his best 
stringth, and set forth sundrie Theses, which by 
publick dispute he would defend against^ all men. 


Now Poliander ye other proffessor, and ye cheefe 
preachers of ye citie, desired Mr. Robinson to dis- 
pute against him; but he was loath, being a 
stranger; yet the other did importune him, and 
tould him yt such was y e abilitie and nimblnes 
of ye adversarie, that y e truth would suffer if he 
did not help them. So as he condescended, & 
prepared him selfe against the time; and when ye 
day came, the Lord did so help him to defend ye 
truth & foyle this adversarie, as he put him to an 
apparent nonplus, in this great & publike audience. 
And ye like he did a 2. or 3. time, upon such like 
occasions. The which as it caused many to praise 
God y* the trueth had so famous victory, so it pro- 
cured him much honour & respecte from those 
lerned men & others which loved ye trueth/ ' * 

There is no doubt about the common acceptance 
of this report concerning the large significance of 
John Robinson's debate with his Arminian antag- 
onist. Governor Winslow inserts the same gen- 
eral statement into his "Hypocrisie Unmasked." 
The details are not all clear; but we have no 
reason for distrusting Bradford's statement. 

Rev. Alexander Gordon, who contributes the 
article on Robinson to "The Dictionary of Na- 
tional Biography," 2 thinks that there may be 
some basis in fact behind these reports, but main- 

1 "Of Plimoth Plantation," pp. 27, 28. 

2 Vol. xlix, pp. 18 ff. 


tains that it is not probable either that the dispute 
was held in the University or that it was under- 
taken at the request of Polyander and the city 
ministers. In proof he cites the silence of the 
records of the university on the matter, and the 
fact that, at this time, the dominant party in 
Leyden was the Arminian. 

We are not warranted in the least, even if we 
accept Bradford very literally, in imagining that 
this disputation was an academic function of suf- 
ficient moment to cause it to be recorded in the 
list of events in the university. The silence of 
the records has no special bearing in the case. We 
know that Robinson was an attendant at lectures 
in the university, and, at a time of intense excite- 
ment over a question of theology and politics, 
such as the Arminian question then was, it is 
wholly within the bounds of reason to suppose 
that Robinson went to the public discussions which 
would be held in the university as a champion of 
the Calvinistic side. 

There is another point which has not been con- 
sidered fully in regard to its bearing upon the 
probable share of Robinson in the discussion of 
the burning question in the university. Why did 
Robinson write and publish the. "Defence of the 
Doctrine propounded by the Synod at Dort"? 


There was no special demand for the composition 
or publication of such a work from his own con- 
gregation. Robinson's writing in defence of the 
Separation as a whole, and his treatment of devel- 
oping phases of practice in his own church were 
made necessary by the specific needs of his own 
congregation. Such a work as the "Defence," 
however, was not carried through merely in the 
interests of his own people. Robinson was abun- 
dantly able to instruct them in doctrine by his 
sermons and lectures, which undoubtedly were 
composed very largely of dogmatic material. The 
"Defence" presupposes a far wider circle of read- 
ers than Separatists in Leyden and Amsterdam. It 
is most reasonable to believe that he was encour- 
aged in its preparation and publication by the 
leaders of the contest with Arminian teachings, 
who, Bradford says, invited Robinson to enter 
the lists of oral debate. 

Hence, Robinson ^bore*;a part, dignified and con- 
spicuous, in the oral and written defence of Cal- 
vinistic doctrine inJLeyden. It was as earnest 
as his defence of^the Separation, although it exhib- 
its far less flexibility than we findjin his treatment 
of the theory and practice of a free church. 




From a survey of the stern, inflexible, dogmatic 
teaching of Robinson it is a pleasure to turn to a 
study of the gracious movement of his theory and 
practice in relation to Christian fellowship. The 
story is interesting from the outset. It covers 
the whole period of his Leyden pastorate. For 
the sake of unity it will be brought together entire 
in this chapter. It is in this great controversy 
that Robinson made a unique contribution to the 
history of the Congregational churches. 

Let us review for a moment the position which 
he had taken as the result of personal pressure 
brought to bear upon him in Amsterdam. He 
went to the limits of complete separation from 
the members of the Church of England. He did 
not deny the reality of their faith nor the gen- 
uineness of certain moral and spiritual qualities 
in them. But he believed that the ecclesiastical 
system of the English Christians as established by 
law was utterly false and sinful, and that true faith 



and excellent spiritual character could not pos- 
sibly exist in the Anglican system in such a way 
that he could enjoy communion with its members. 
It appeared to him like the case of the meats offered 
in sacrifices in heathen temples. The early Chris- 
tians were forbidden to eat them, not because the 
whole subject of meat for food was involved, but 
because in this case the meat had been so essen- 
tially connected with something evil that it was 
thereby contaminated and its use forbidden. 
Therefore, a complete separation from the mem- 
bers of the Church of England was necessary, 
because its corruption was essential. Thus he 
carried the Separation to its bitter end. He had 
reached this position in Amsterdam and had defined 
it in 1610. It was uncharitable ground; but there 
can be no question concerning Robinson's clear 
conception of all that it involved, and no doubt 
about his sincerity in maintaining the rigid Sepa- 

The first sign of a change in Robinson's position 
appears from letters which passed between him- 
self and Rev. William Ames, enough of which 
have been preserved to enable us to see the posi- 
tions taken by the correspondents. 

William Ames was a man of Robinson's own 
age; had been, as a pupil in Cambridge, very deeply 


influenced by William Perkins; had refused to 
wear the surplice and, therefore, had suffered sus- 
pension; and had come to be an able representa- 
tive of the conforming Puritans. He was a more 
learned and a much stronger antagonist than Ber- 
nard. He was often in Holland, and is said to 
have been sent to Leyden at the expense of certain 
English merchants for the purpose of engaging in 
controversy with Robinson. He was an ardent 
champion of Calvinism, and watched the proceed- 
ings of the Synod of Dort in the interests of this 

There seems to be little doubt that Ames was 
engaged in personal controversy with Robinson 
in Leyden in reference to the Separation. And 
this was probably the occasion of the exchange 
of letters, to which we will now turn. 

They are preserved in a small volume which 
contains, a virulent attack upon the Ancient Lon- 
don Church, published in 1612, under the title 
"The Prophane Schisme of the Brownists or Sep- 
aratists." Christopher Lawne and three others 
are named as the authors, but Robinson asserts 
that the book is the work of others than these. In 
this volume, William Ames allowed certain letters 
that had been exchanged between himself and 
Robinson to be published without the latter 's 


consent or least suspicion that they were to be 
made public in this way. 

Robinson's first letter is lo^t. Ames replied to 
it, evidently from the Hague, in 1611. He urged 
Robinson to consider if communion were not pos- 
sible entirely outside a church order. The fact 
that men have communion with Christ is the 
ground of their communion with one another. 
Prayer is indulged in before a covenant is entered; 
but, even Robinson would hold, the church exists 
by virtue of its covenant; therefore communion 
in prayer is possible out of any church organiza- 

To this letter Robinson made answer from Ley- 
den, maintaining stiffly that religious communion 
does not rest upon the discovery of inward fellow- 
ship with Christ, but that it is conditioned upon 
the orderly establishment of church relations. 
Therefore, it is unlawful for Separatists to hear 
Anglican ministers preach; or to join with them in 
prayer; or even to engage in private prayer with 
members of the Church of England. 

In these letters to Ames, then, we find Robinson 
holding the same position which he maintained 
against Bernard in his " Justification of Separa- 

But in 1614 there appeared by far the most 


significant of all Robinson's books, "Of Relig- 
ious Communion, Private and Public." The title 
itself hints at some change of view. His words 
in the preface and at the very beginning of the 
treatise show us what this change is. Robinson 
has realized the force of the difference between 
"public" and "private" communion. He says 
that he never intended to call in question the 
faithfulness and goodness of the many in the 
parishes of England who were thereby worthy of 
communion with Christian brethren. But the 
point which he feared was that the true order of 
the church would be violated if there should be 
any communion between those who were gath- 
ered in the one true church order (that is, the 
church of the Separatists) and the Church of Eng- 
land. The change in Robinson's opinion was due 
to the discovery of 

"a distinction of religious actions into personal 
and church actions, which, if either Mr. A[mes] 
had observed unto me, or I myself then conceived 
of, would have cleared the question to my con- 
science, and with which I did wholly satisfy my- 
self in this matter, when God gave me once to 
observe it. My judgment therein and the reasons 
of it I have set down in the first part of the book, 
[Of Religious Communion] unto which I bind no 


man further to assent than he sees ground from 
the Scriptures." 1 

The passage of Scripture from which more light 
broke to Robinson on this fundamental matter of 
his religious practice was Col. 2:5, 

" For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I 
with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your 
order, and the steadfastness of your faith." 

It is an interesting commentary upon Robin-r 
son's value of the Scripture even in its most de- 
tailed statements, and the sympathetic manner in 
which he interpreted it, that this passage, often 
read so carelessly as one of the less important 
utterances of a letter of Paul, should decide Rob- 
inson's opinions so radically. He discovers here 
that Paul reduces the reasons of his rejoicing to 
two, the "faith" and the "order" of the members 
of the church in Colossal. Of these, faith is the 
more important, in that it makes men capable 
of the church order in which they stand united. 
From these two fountain heads flow two sorts of 
religious actions, which may be termed " personal " 
and " church" actions. Personal actions are those 
which are prompted and sanctioned by personal 
faith. They are private prayer, thanksgiving, 
singing of psalms, profession of faith, confession 

1 "Of Religious Communion," 3: 102. 


of sins, reading and explaining the Scriptures, 
or hearing this done in a family or elsewhere, 
without the use of any church or ministry for this 
purpose being deemed necessary. On the other 
hand, church actions consist in the reception or 
excommunication of members, electing and depos- 
ing of officers, and all employment of a public 
ministry or communion under the sanction of the 
church order. 

For the first set of actions personal faith only 
is necessary on the part of those who perform 
them. Personal faith is also necessary for the 
right performance of the second set of actions, 
but, in addition to faith, there must also be a true 
church order, in and by which these functions are 
to be realized. 

. The practical result of this distinction in Scrip- 
ture is a new proposition, namely, 

"that we who profess a Separation from the 
English national, provincial, diocesan and paro- 
chial church and churches, in the whole formal 
state and order thereof, may, notwithstanding, 
lawfully communicate in private prayer, and other 
the like holy exercises (not performed in their 
church communion, nor by their church power 
and ministry) with the godly amongst them, 
though remaining of infirmity members of the 
same church or churches, except some other ex- 


traordinary bar come in the way between them 
and us." 1 

This new proposition Robinson defends at 
length, admitting its inconsistency with what he 
had as strenuously maintained in his former writ- 
ings. But he claims that the new position is 
really only a return to that which he had occupied 
at the time of his original decision for the Sepa- 
ration, and that the same difference between faith 
and order had really been made also by Barrow, 
Johnson and Ainsworth. 

The argument, however, we will not follow in 
detail. There are two points of value for us as 
we seek to set forth Robinson's development and 
character. The first is the manner in which he 
reached the new position. Such an exegetical 
conclusion from a rather insignificant passage in 
the New Testament seems to us quite unwarrant- 
able. No canons of historical-critical interpre- 
tation could give us such a result. But to John 
Robinson the method was perfectly valid and the 
conclusion perfectly clear. To us it seems that 
the elaborate result reached had been rather 
read into the passage by Robinson's own kindly 
mind craving Scriptural sanction for a catholic 
view of Christian fellowship. And such may be 

1 "Of Religious Communion," 3: 105. 


the case. If it is, the process was unconscious. 
John Robinson's heart may have craved what he 
found; he may have hit upon the wealth of mean- 
ing which he discovered in Paul's words very 
largely because of that craving. But to him it 
was a true breaking forth of light from the Word 
of God for the guidance of his way. He sought 
to bind no one to his opinion further than the war- 
rant of the Word seemed to be sufficient. There 
is no better index to the whole spirit of Robinson's 
life than we find in this change of opinion con- 
cerning communion and the reasons which he him- 
self gives for it. We shall need to recall it when 
we consider later the use of the phrase "more 
light," which is so often and so justly used to 
describe his character. 

The effect of this change in position is very 
marked in the controversies of the time. The 
followers of Henry Ainsworth in Amsterdam still 
maintained the rigid Separation. Against them 
Rev. John Paget, who, we recollect, was the pastor 
of the Scotch Presbyterian church there, issued 
"An Arrow against the Separation of the Brown- 
ists" in 1618. The publication of Paget 's book 
was occasioned by the refusal of Ainsworth 's peo- 
ple to have fellowship with Paget 's church mem- 
bers. Robinson's position taken in "Of Religious 


Communion" was naturally an argument of prime 
value to Paget. He writes against Ainsworth, 

" You send me unto such a book of Mr. Robin- 
son as himself doth begin to revoke publicly as 
being unsound in divers things [i. e. the "Justifi- 
cation of Separation," 1610] whereas I refer you 
unto a later book of his [i. e. "Of Religious 
Communion"], made with riper deliberation and 
in no part that I hear of publicly revoked. 
His . . . Justification of Separation is sick of 
King Jehoram's incurable disease . . . ; unto 
this rotten book you refer me, and yet blame 
me that refer you unto that which is more 
sound." l 

The same plan of argument is pursued through 
his book by Paget. And it must have been a dif- 
ficult point for Ainsworth to meet. His church 
was deeply stirred over the question, and the peo- 
ple publicly and earnestly urged Ainsworth to 
defend his position for the rigid Separation against 
Robinson. 2 Paget also gives us a glimpse of 
the practice of Robinson's church as early as 
1618. He says, 

"M*. Robinsonand his people do now (as divers 
of themselves confess) receive the members of 
the Church of England unto their congregation, 
and this without [any renunciation of the Church 

1 Paget, " An Arrow," p. 59. 
* Ibid., p. 6. 


of England, without any repentance for their 
idolatries, committed in the Church of England. 
How can you [Ainsworth] hold them to be a 
true church, and communion with them lawful, 
seeing that, by your reasoning, they are tied in the 
cords of their sin as well as we?" 1 

Paget undoubtedly means nothing more than 
what Robinson would call "private communion" 
by his statement, "receive the members of the 
Church of England into their congregation." For 
Robinson's opinion concerning the matter of dis- 
tinctively church fellowship had not changed in 
1615, when he wrote in reply to William Ames, 
" A Manumission to a Manuduction, or Answer to 
a Letter inferring Publique Communion in the 
Parrish Assemblies upon Private with Godly Per- 
sons there." 2 (1615.) Ames sought earnestly 
to take advantage of the partial victory which 
he had won in Robinson's book, "Of Religious 
Communion," and to overcome Robinson's argu- 
ments for the necessity of separation in all relig- 
ious actions involving the use of the Anglican 
church and ministry. The argument in the " Manu- 
mission" is perfectly clear. Robinson held the 
positions maintained in 1614 in "Of Religious 

1 Paget, "An Arrow, " p. 127. 

* Reprinted in "Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll.," 1: 165-104. Copy in Congre- 
gational Library, Boston, Mass. 


Communion." Ames published a second "Manu- 
duction" to Robinson in 1615. The influence of 
this we are not able to determine. 

The next available source from which light is 
to be had on Robinson's teachings and practice 
regarding fellowship consists of two letters dated 
in the year 1624, written by him, one to a church 
in London and another to the church in Amster- 
dam. The former is the more important. Both 
were printed as an appendix to Robinson's book, 
"The Lawfulness of Hearing," 1 which will be 
taken up next. 

A Separatist church in London had found itself 
confronted with a practical problem. It was 
this: A young woman, a member of the church, 
had been discovered attending the services of the 
Church of England, especially for the purpose of 
hearing the Scriptures read and explained. For 
this the church had disciplined her. She had 
promised, however, to discontinue the practice 
for which she was censured, and, on the strength 
of this promise, she had been restored to fellow- 
ship. The London church was not quite clear 
concerning the decision that they had reached, and 
sent to the Leyden church for their opinion on the 
action that had been taken. The decision of the 

1 Works, 3: 379-393. 


Leyden church was read in public there and then 
sent, by the unanimous consent of the church, to 
the brethren in London. The reply was explicit 
concerning the wisdom of retaining the young 
woman in fellowship: 

" We judge, that therein ye did well, yea, though 
she had continued her practice upon occasion, and 
without neglect of the church whereof she was a 
member, how much more leaving it as she did." 1 

The reply from Leyden, therefore, went beyond 
the mere terms of the inquiry. The church was 
ready to approve the permanent retention in fel- 
lowship of a member who attended the services 
of the Church of England, so long as that fact did 
not interfere with the performance of the mem- 
ber's full duty to his own congregation. This 
was a long step in advance of the teaching ol 
Robinson in 1614 and 1615. 

The London church also made an inquiry con- 
cerning the manner in which the members of 
Henry Jacob's church were to be regarded. 
This congregation was carrying out the Leyden 
practice in relation to other churches, and it was 
causing scandal. They were judged to be "idol- 
aters" in going to the public worship of the Angli- 
can church. The Leyden brethren's counsel was 

1 Works, 3:382. 


sought as to whether Jacob's church was a true 
church or not, so long as it maintained this prac- 
tice. They answered that this was not idolatry 
in any true sense of the term; Henry Jacob's 
church was a true church. This judgment was 
further attested by the fact that two persons, Mr. 
and Mrs. Slaresmore, were received into the Ley- 
den congregation from Henry Jacob's church on 
the basis of their covenant made in that church, 
and, later, were again received at Amsterdam. 
Thus the character of Jacob's church in England 
was satisfactory to the brethren in Ley den and 
Amsterdam. At the same time it was known 
that members of Jacob's church went to the serv- 
ices of the Church of England. 

This is clear enough witness concerning Rob- 
inson's convictions in the year 1624. These 
decisions of practical questions came just before 
Robinson's death. They were simply the practi- 
cal application of a new principle which he was 
working out, and which he put into a treatise 
that we now have under the following title: 

" A Treatise of the Lawfulnes of Hearing of Ihe 
Ministers in the Church of England; penned by 
that learned and reverent Deuine, Mr. John Rob- 
insz, late Pastor to the English Church of God in 
Leyden. Printed according to the copie that was 


found in his Studie after his decase, and now pub- 
lished for the common good." 1 , 

This manuscript was printed in 1634, nine years 
after Robinson's death, by his friends and follow- 
ers. The publishers kept it back for nine years 
out of respect to the spirit of its author. Their 
preface tells us that they are aware that not all 
the Leyden brethren agreed with the pastor's 
position, and, therefore, knowing what his own 
will would have been in the matter of preserving 
harmony, they kept the manuscript. How truly 
they had interpreted their pastor's spirit will ap- 
pear from the preface which he wrote for the treat- 
ise. There is hardly a whole book which he has 
left us that interprets him more deeply than these 
words, probably from the last year of his earthly 

"As they that affect alienation from others I 
make their differences as great, and the adverse 
opinion or practice as odious as they can, thereby J 
to further their desired victory over them, and to | 
harden themselves and their side against them, | 
so, on the contrary, they who desire peace and \ 
accord both interpret things in the best part they ! 
reasonably can, and seek how and where they ! 
may find any lawful door of entry into accord and i 
agreement with others: of which latter number j 

1 Works, 3: 339-393. 


I profess myself (by the grace of God) both a com- 
panion and a guide; especially in regard of my 
Christian countrymen, to whom God hath tied 
me in so many inviolable bonds; accounting it a 
cross that I am, in any particular, compelled to 
dissent from them, but a benefit and matter of 
rejoicing when I can in anything with good con- 
science unite with them in matter, if not in man- 
ner, or, where it may be, in both. Arid this affec- 
tion, the Lord and my conscience are my witnesses, 
I have always nourished in my breast, even when 
I seemed furthest drawn from them: and so all 
that have taken knowledge of my course can tes- 
tify with me, and how I have still opposed in others, 
and repressed in mine own people, to [the extent 
of] my power, all sour zeal against, and peremp- 
tory rejection of such [persons or practices] as 
whose holy graces challenge better use and respect 
from all Christian^. And in testimony of my 
affection this way, and for the freeing of mine own 
conscience, I have penned this discourse, tending^ 
to prove the hearing of the Word of God preached 
by the ministers of the Church of England, able 
to open and apply the doctrines of faith by that 
church professed, both lawful, and, in cases, nec- 
essary for all of all sects or sorts of Christians, 
having opportunity and occasion of so doing, 
though sequestering themselves from all commun- 
ion with the hierarchical order there established. 
"Three sorts of opposites I make account to 
meet withal. The first, of thefh who truly desire 
and carefully endeavor to have their whole course 


both in religion and otherwise framed by the holy 
and right seal of God's Word, either for their con- 
firmation in the truth, or reformation wherein 
through human frailty they step aside. And 
unto them especially, I direct this my discourse, 
begging at His hands, who is the Father of lights, 
and from whom cometh down every good and per- 
fect gift, for them as for myself, that, as he hath 
given us to set our faces toward heaven, and to 
seek him with the whole heart, so he would not 
suffer us to wander from his commandments to 
the right hand or to the left. 

"A second sort is of them whose tender and 
scrupulous conscience makes them fearful and 
jealous of everything that hath in it the least 
appearance or show of evil, lest, coming too near 
it, they be defiled by it one way or other. This 
their godly zeal and tenderness of heart is to be 
loved of all men, and cherished by all good means. 
Only such are to be entreated for their own good 
to take knowledge of a distinction most useful 
for their direction in things lawful in their kind, 
and good in their right use: of which some are 
only naturally good in their kind, but not simply 
commanded of God, as to get and keep the riches 
and credit of the world, to enjoy outward peace, 
or other bodily comfort. Others are morally 
good in their kind and commanded of God, as to 
hear the Word of God, obey the magistrate, and 
the like. Now in things of the former sort, it is 
very requisite, considering both their nature and 
ours, that we keep a jealous eye and strait hand 


over ourselves and our ways. . . . But now for 
the practice and performance of duties simply 
moral and commanded in their kind, as is the 
hearing of God's Word, especially by God's peo- 
ple, we ought to strain to the utmost, and to go 
as near the wind as may be. . . . 

"A third sort of opposites I make account to 
meet with, more untractable than the former, 
and more vehemently bent against the thing pro- 
pounded by me, out of prejudice and passion, 
than the other by scruple of conscience or show 
of reason. To them I can hardly say anything, 
it not being their manner to read or willingly to 
hear that which crosseth their prejudices. Yet 
something I must say touching them, out of the 
woeful experience of many years taken of them, 
though not much, I thank the Lord, amongst them 
unto whom I have ministered. Some of these I 
have found carried with so excessive admiration 
of some former guides in their course, as they think 
it half heresy to call into question any of their 
determinations, or practices. We must not think 
that only the Pharisees of old and Papists of later 
times are superstitiously addicted to the traditions 
of the elders and authority of the church. In all 
sects there are divers, especially of the weaker 
sort, who, being the less real in their conceptions 
are the more personal, that [sic] rather choose to 
follow the troad [i. e. trodden path] of blind tra- 
dition than the right way of God's Word by others 
to be shown them afterwards." 1 

1 "Lawfulness of Hearing," 3: 353-356. 


We have made this long quotation from the 
preface to Robinson's defense of the Leyden prac- 
tice not only because it epitomizes so much of his 
spirit and method in controversy, but also because 
of its intrinsic nobility of conception. In all the 
bitter contention, dreary argument, fierce invec- 
tive and unfair device of the controversial litera- 
ture that we have examined in the history of the 
Separation up to the year 1624, there is no sweeter, 
kindlier, braver utterance than this. It stands 
for "sweetness and light" in a wonderful degree. 
Especially important is this excerpt for comparison 
with the so-called "Farewell Address," which we 
shall consider later. 

The argument of the treatise we will not follow 
in detail. The quotation given hints at the gen- 
eral nature of the discussion. The point worth 
noting is the relation of the argument to Robin- 
son's emphasis in former writings upon the doc- 
trine of the "connivance at sin" which impelled 
him to the rigid Separation. The general prin- 
ciple as enunciated by his opponents was, 

" He that in anything partakes with that church 
in which sins known are suffered unreformed, 
partakes in all the sins of that church." 1 

This is a statement of the principle, however, 

1 "Lawfulness of Hearing," 3: 359. 


which he himself might have made at the time of 
his controversy with Bernard (1610), and which 
he did make practically. But now his interpre- 
tation has changed. He says, 

" I partake not in the sins of any, how great or 
manifest soever the sins be, or how near unto me 
soever the persons be except the same sins either 
be committed or remain unreformed by my fault. 
Otherwise, Christ our Lord had been enwrapped 
in the guilt of a world of sins in the Jewish Church, 
with which church he communicated in God's 
ordinances, living and dying a member thereof. ,,1 

Hence Robinson holds it to be 

" a most vain imagination that everyone that par- y 
takes with a church in things lawful joins with it > 
in upholding the things unlawful found in it. " 2 J 

This is a most significant change. Here Ber- 
nard and Ames both might have taken their posi- 
tion in seeking to rebut the favorite Separatist 
argument. Robinson has wrested the strongest 
element out of the old argument in thus taking 
refuge behind this idea of personal responsibility. 

When we test Robinson's practice by his the- 
ory we have several sources from which we get 
light upon it. Perhaps the chief of these is Win- 
slow 's incident regarding David Calderwood of 

1 ''Lawfulness of Hearing," 3: 359. 

2 Ibid., 390. 


Scotland, which is in his " Hypocrisie Unmasked," 
p. 96. * David Calderwood was the author of a 
book entitled " Perth Assembly," which was 
printed by William Brewster at his fugitive shop 
for setting type in Leyden, in 1619. The book 
aroused the fiercest rage of King James I and all 
the officers of the church, who were determined 
to force episcopacy upon Scotland, and Calderwood 
escaped to Holland from Scotland in August, 
1619. 2 Calderwood was a personal friend of Rob- 
inson and was accustomed to hear Robinson 
preach. When the church came to the celebra- 
tion of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Cal- 
derwood asked permission to remain to witness 
it, and Robinson answered him, — 

" Reverend Sir, you may not onely stay to behold 
us, but partake with us, if you please, for wee 
acknowledge the Churches of Scotland to be the 
Churches of Christ." 

Calderwood declined the courtesy. But the mean- 
ing of Robinson's invitation is certainly clear 
enough. He practiced as he taught while pastor 
of the Leyden Church. 

1 Quoted in Dexter, "Congregationalism as Seen," p. 396. 

* Arber, * 'Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, " p. 239 ff. . . 





From this study of Robinson's most significant 
contribution to the history of the Separation, 
which from its very nature is peculiarly of per- 
manent interest and present value, we turn to a 
study of his position in the polity of the Separatist 
churches. The aristocratic tendencies in Barrow's 
teaching and the democratic elements in Browne's 
have been outlined. The working out of the two 
ideals in the life of an organized church was con- 
fined chiefly to Amsterdam. Robinson was not 
so directly concerned in the Struggle as were John- 
son and Ainsworth. He was drawn into it, how- 
ever, and lJbre a large part not only in the defini- 
tion of the theory but also in the determination 
of the practice of the Congregational polity. The 
struggle assumes an added significance when it is 
remembered that these are the teachings of the 
man most influential in molding the political ideals 
of Jhe Pilgrim Fathers. 

The removal of the Scrooby church from Amster- 
dam to Leyden was occasioned very largely by 



the fact that "y e flames of contention" were 
perceived by Robinson as about to break out in 
the Ancient Church. This contention was partly 
concerning the place and authority of the elder- 
ship in the government of the church. It was 
simply the outward manifestation of a general 
haziness which prevailed in the teaching of the 
earlier Separatists. This teaching it is not easy 
to classify. The terms of modern political science 
could not have been used then; words which we 
have learned to ennoble were then considered to 
be terms of indignity. Many a name given in 
contempt becomes in the course of time the pride 
and boast of a party. Hence, we must not be 
surprised to find Robinson seeking to shun the 
reproach of a name the glory of which we are glad 
to assume. Underneath the different terms we 
must search for the real facts of the teaching of 
these men, and not suffer ourselves to wonder too 
much at frequent inconsistency and obscurity. 

In the case of Francis Johnson, pastor of the 
Ancient Church in Amsterdam, there is clear enough 
evidence of a decided bent toward the aristocratic 
emphasis in Barrow. His own experiences with 
his church probably increased the tendency, for 
he would not care to trust too much to the popular 
judgment as to the Christian character of his 


own family relations. He went on until he be- 
came, in the words of Robinson, "immoderately 
jealous for the officers' dignity." The whole 
emphasis of the pastor was, therefore, laid in- 
creasingly upon the power of the elders. 

Against this tendency Henry Ainsworth, the 
teacher, set himself, supported by a minority of 
the congregation. But in doing this he did not 
become the advocate of the full power of the peo- 
ple in self-government. That would have been 
democracy, and to advocate democracy was to 
become the champion of all that is confusing and 
disruptive in orderly government, according to 
the generally accepted ideas even of the Separa- 
tists themselves. 

When Robinson issued his "Justification of 
Separation" in 1610, his teaching in reference to 
the eldership was displeasing to Johnson. He 
took Robinson's book into the meeting place and 

" there before the congregation made a solemne 
testification against the manifold errors contained 
in it, which he disclaimed, and not only so, but 
wrote letters to M[r.] Robinson to rebuke him for 
the same." 1 

It was probably in reply to these letters, no 
traces of which are at present known, or in the 

1 Lawne, "Prophane Schisme," p. 76. 


correspondence called out by the difference in 
practice, that Robinson warned Johnson against 
overthrowing the constitution of the church by 
his practice. This letter was read publicly in a 
meeting of the Ancient Church, and 

" Master Johnson hath thereupon said, let master 
Robinson then looke to the constitution of his 
church." l 

Johnson was very outspoken in his condemnation 
of the practice of Robinson in Leyden, calling it 
"the confusion of Korah and his companie." 
The pastors were thus set in direct opposition; 
and then the deacons joined in the conflict. Dea- 
con Daniel Studley of Amsterdam wrote a letter 
to Deacon Samuel Fuller of Leyden, in which he 
described the whole company of the brethren at 
Leyden as 

"ignorant idiots, noddy Nabalites, dogged 
Doegs, fairfaced Pharisees, shameless Shemeites, 
malicious Machiauellians. " 2 

Lawne makes fun of this " Alphabeticall slan- 
derer, " and it is not difficult to imagine that Stud- 
ley 's tirade caused Pastor Robinson and Deacon 
Fuller a hearty laugh together. 
An open rupture came in Amsterdam between 

1 Lawne, "Prophane Schisme," p. 72. 
» Ibid., p. 77. 


the followers of Francis Johnson, called the " Fran- 
ciscans/' and the followers of Ainsworth, the 
teacher of the church, called the "Ainsworth- 
ians." The sympathies of the Leyden men were, 
of course, with the latter. This was evident 
enough from the manner in which the arguments 
of Robinson in his "Justification of Separation" 
had provoked Johnson and buttressed the posi- 
tions of Ainsworth. When Ainsworth proposed, 
therefore, that the counsel of Robinson and his 
church be sought for settling the quarrel, John- 
son's party refused to accept their advice. Then 
about thirty members of the Ancient Church, 
supporters of Ainsworth, wrote to the Leyden 
church, rehearsed the trouble, and asked for help 
toward a settlement. At the same time they in- 
formed the brethren in Leyden that the elders 
(who were, practically, according to Johnson's 
teaching, the church) would not approve the en- 
trance of Robinson's members into the affair, but 
would permit it, if the Leyden brethren would 
come in either on their own initiative or at the 
request of the Ainsworthians. * 

To this rather humiliating request Robinson 
made a dignified reply. This was not directed 
to the thirty who had sent his people the request, 

1 Works, 3: 470. 


but to the entire officers and membership of the 
Ancient Church. With skill, wisdom and kind- 
ness Robinson laid the request of the thirty before 
them, and then said that his people were not will- 
ing to come into the matter except they were 
called for counsel by the whole church and unless 
there were some hope of a successful issue of the 

The Ancient Church refused to approve of any 
interference for counsel on the part of the Leyden 
brethren. Robinson wrote twice to the same 
effect, and twice his advances were repulsed. He 
gave up then any hope of helping in a dignified way. 
In the meantime the majority deposed Ainsworth 
from his office as teacher. Robinson had not 
been standing for his dignity or privilege merely. 
When matters came to this critical pass he was 
ready to do anything in the interests of peace. A 
delegation went up to Amsterdam. Robinson was 

"chief of the messengers sent; which*- had that 
good effect, as that they revoked the said deposi- 
tion [of Ainsworth from his office as teacher,] and 
confessed their rashness and error, and lived to- 
gether in peace some good time after." 1 

The two factions were not quiet, however, in 
spite of Robinson's most persistent and kindly 

1 Gov. Bradford's "Dialogue" in *'N. E. Memorial," Boston, 1855, 


. 330. 


efforts to heal the breach. Ainsworth secured the 
attendance of Robinson and his delegates in Am- 
sterdam a second time. Then Johnson proposed 
that those members of his church who could not 
agree to his methods in church government should 
be dismissed to Ley den. The consent of Robin- 
son was secured. The end seemed to be in sight, 
when suddenly the Ancient Church repudiated 
the agreement, giving as their reason a fear that 
the dismissed members would not leave Amster- 
dam, but would take their letters, and, later, 
receive dismission from the Leyden church for 
the purpose of forming a new congregation in 
Amsterdam. Nothing less would satisfy the Fran- 
ciscans than the complete expulsion of the 
Ainsworthians from Amsterdam. Thus ended all 
Robinson's attempts to bring about a settlement. 
The next proposition came from Johnson, who 
outlined a scheme of "double practice/' whereby 
the Ancient Church was to keep together as an 
organization, and yet each party was to manage 
regarding the eldership according to its own con- 
victions. This was in November, 1610. Robinson 
saw that such a condition of armed neutrality 
never would succeed. He therefore proposed a 
"middle way" of practice for them. Any matter 
of church discipline was to be brought first 


before the elders as the proper governors of the 
church; if it could be settled there, the decision 
was final; if not, the case was to be brought "to 
the church of elders and brethren to be judged 
there." 1 

In proposing this plan Robinson saw clearly that 
it meant a mutual surrender, and he foresaw 
success only on condition that "it would please 
the Lord so far to enlarge your hearts on both 
sides, brethren, as that this middle way be held." 
Robinson did not commend this method of con- 
ducting a church's affairs because he considered it 
the best one under normal conditions, but because 
he thought it might be a helpful compromise 
measure under the conditions obtaining in Amster- 
dam. He stated expressly that this was not the 
practice of the Leyden church in the conduct of 
its business. 

The proposition of the middle way did not suc- 
ceed. Ainsworth was deposed from his office, 
and his followers were excommunicated from the 
Ancient Church. Robinson was persistent in his 
efforts for peace, and the dignity and resourceful- 
ness of the Leyden pastor are evident throughout 
the entire transaction. 

Lawne gives us a picture of one of the confer- 

1 Works, 3: 468. 


ences in Amsterdam, which shows us some of the 
difficulties of a practical sort with which Robin- 
son was obliged to contend in these negotiations: 

"When some of master Ainsworth's companie 
wrote unto master Robinson, desiring him to come 
and helpe the Lord against the mightie (against 
master Johnson, whom they had accounted as the 
strongest Giant of the Separation) master Robin- 
son at last came unto them to dispute with mas- 
ter Johnson about the change of his gouernment; 
and being come and entred within the listes of that 
disputation, he found master Ainsworth's faction 
so disorderly and clamorous, that he often desired 
them to be still and silent, and reproued their 
vnseemly and vnreasonable behaviour; but at 
length when he saw the tumult encrease, (look- 
ing vpon them round about, as a man amazed 
and agast, with fierce and outragious carriage) 
he did then openly testifie among them, That he 
had rather walke in peace with five godly persons, 
than to live with fine hundred or fiue thousand such 
unquiet persons as these were." 1 

Johnson then assured Robinson that the be- 
haviour of the Ainsworthians which seemed so 
disorderly was really nothing when compared 
with the manner in which they ordinarily carried 
themselves. Robinson's self-command appears ail 
the more from such comparisons as these. There 

1 " Prophane Schisme," p. 84. 


is no wonder that the Ancient London Church 
was disrupted. There was no master spirit in 

It is not difficult to determine Robinson's the- 
ory of church government from his writings. A 
brief statement of it has been made in the chapter 
on his definition of the Separation in the contro- 
versy with Bernard. This is contemporary with 
his effort to aid in the solution of the eldership 
question in Amsterdam. In 1619 Robinson pub- 
lished his "Apologia" in Latin, which was issued 
in 1625 in English under the title, "A Just and 
Necessary Apology of Certain Christians, no less 
contumeliously than commonly called Brownists 
or Barrowists." l Its purpose was to 'make clear 
the differencea between the Reformed Churches / 
and the Leyden Church, and also to differentiate - 
the latter from other Separatist congregations. 
The fourth chapter in this "Apology" is entitled 
"Of the Ecclesiastical Presbytery." The general 
position maintained, however, is not materially 
changed from that of 1610. Robinson's system 
of government is neither positively one thing 
nor another. Its theory wavers. He believed 
that no person should be chosen to the office of 
an elder unless he were able to teach, exhort 

1 Worka,3:p. 1-79. 


and defend the faith in any public gathering as 
well as in private meetings. 1 The elders should be 
chosen for a term of service lasting through life. 
The chief point, however, was that the elders 
ought not to exercise their power in private. 
To meet apart from the congregation for delibera- 
tion concerning any matters properly within their 
jurisdiction was right. But all their official action 
must be public. The practice in the Reformed 
churches, wheniilie^ccr^ meetin gs of the ek lers 
made it i mpos sible foTThe peo rieL-to Jcnow or 
approyejbheir actions, was, Robinson_fi rmly held , 
entirely wrong." Indeed, Tie went so far as to say 
that, between the interpretation of the command, 
" Tell the church, " which made the term " church" 
equivalent to the Anglican bishops and their 
officers, and that which made it equivalent to 
"the senate of elders excluding the people," the 
former meaning was far nearer the truth, for the 
bishops and their officers did not exclude the 
people from the consistories, but presented there 
their judgment to the people. 

It is interesting to see this kindlier view of epis- 
copacy and the consistory, against which Robinson 
had once written so bitterly and which here he con- 
siders in a fairer light although without approval. 

»•• Apology," 3: 28-41. 


The difference between the two systems of gov- 
ernment comes out clearly only when we take a 
specific instance by which to test it. This test 
is the matter of church discipline. How was an 
offender to be treated? Robinson's answer to 
the question is clear. He held the censure of 
offenders for any private or public scandal to be 
the function of the elders, and granted that, in a 
"well-ordered state of the church," the perform- 
ance of this function might be left to the elders 
alone with safety; nevertheless it never could 
be rightly performed without the knowledge and 
consent of the people. An offender must not be 
judged by the elders alone, "but by the church 
with them, though governed by them.' ' 

According to this theory, which may seem to 
be somewhat loosely defined, Robinson admin- 
istered the affairs of the Leyden church success- 
fully. He wrote to the Amsterdam brethren, 

"We safely say, so far as we remember, that 
there never came complaint of sin to the church 
since we were officers, but we [i. e. the officers] 
took knowledge of it before [it was brought openly 
before the whole body of the church members], 
either by mutual consent on both sides, or at least, 
by the party accused; with whose Christian mod- 
esty and wisdom we think it well sorteth, that 
being condemned by two or three brethern, he 


should not trouble the church, or hazard a public 
rebuke upon himself, without counselling with 
them who are set over him, and who either are or 
should be best able to advise him." * 

There is a still more specific illustration of 
the manner in which Robinson steered between 
aristocracy and democracy in the government of 
the congregation. When the church in London 
sought the judgment of the churches in Leyden 
and Amsterdam concerning the wisdom of retain- 
ing in fellowship thejyoung woman who had at- 
tended Anglican worship, Robinson answered, 

"he conceives it not orderly that the bodies of 
churches should be sent to for counsel, but some 
choice persons. Power and authority are in the 
body for elections and censures, but counsel for 
direction in all affairs, in some few; in which re- 
gard every particular church has appointed its 
eldership for ordinary counsellors, to direct it and 
the members thereof in all difficulties; with whom 
others are also to advise upon occasions, specially 
ordinary." 2 

From all these sources it is evident that Rob- 
inson took every possible course to avoid the idea 
of democracy. As he asks Johnson, "Where do 
I in all this book, [The Justification of Separar | 

1 Works, 3: 473, 474. 
* Ibid., 3: 382. 


tion,] as is imputed to me, advance the people, 
as others do the prelates, and make them idols?" * 
He held that the officers were the governors of 
the congregation; the people, the governed; and 
that power and government were two entirely 
different things. The government was with the 
officers; the power lay in the whole church, in 
the people. 

Robinson's writings are consistent in their 
teaching, as his practical administration of the 
Leyden church preserved the function of the church 
officers and the power of the congregation for self- 
government. He turned the tide that set to- 
ward oligarchy on the one hand, and he saved 
the Separation from alliance with dangerous anar- 
chistic tendencies. He avoided the word democ- 
racy; with the content which the term then bore, 
this was an act of wisdom. It was a true democ- 
racy for which he stood, however, and into the 
possession of which he guided the Congregational 

1 Works, 3:481. 




Returning now to the story of the church in 
Leyden, we must pick up the thread of the nar- 
rative which was dropped at the close of Chapter 
VI, at which point it seemed necessary to look 
in detail at the matter of Robinson's theology, 
his practice in regard to communion, and his rela- 
tion to the other Separatists in respect to the elder- 

The complete organization of the church took 
place after they were established in Leyden. As 
we should naturally expect from Robinson's the- 
ories in regard to the matter, this was very sim- 
ple. He had only one elder associated with him. 
This was William Brewster. 1 He was chosen to 
the office of ruling elder; but this, according to 
Robinson's theory, implied that he was qualified 
to be teaching elder as well. This position Brew- 
ster still held after the church had emigrated to 
Plymouth, and in their services there used to call 
upon such men as Winslow, Bradford and Morton 

1 Bradford, "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 17. 


to pray or give exhortations in the public ser- 
vices. * 

Two deacons were also chosen to office while 
the church was in Leyden. These were Samuel 
Fuller and John Carver, both of whom bore an 
active part in the controversies of the time in Ley- 
den and rendered great service to the church in 

So far as we can determine this was the full 
number of the church's officers so long as they 
remained in Leyden. There can be no question 
as to the harmony of this governing body. Brew- 
ster, Fuller and Carver were in most perfect sym- 
pathy. They accepted the leadership of the pastor 
in all his changing views concerning communion, 
and held with him regarding the eldership. He 
was the dominant force in their counsels, and the 
concord and strength of the Leyden church grew 
in no slight degree from the personal qualities 
of the pastor and his three associates. 

Robinson's work in the church was constant. 
He preached twice on Sundays at services which 
were probably quite like those held by the churches 
in Amsterdam, which were thus described by 
Richard Clifton: 

1 Cotton, "An Account, etc.," in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. Series 1, Vol. 
4, pp. 108, 118, 136. 


1. Prayer and giving of thanks by the pastor or 


2. The Scriptures are read, two or three chapters, 

as time serves, with a brief explanation of 
their meaning. 

3. The pastor or teacher then takes some passage 

of Scripture, and expounds and enforces it. 

4. The sacraments are administered. 

5. Some of the Psalms of David are sung by the 

whole congregation, both before and after 
the exercise of the Word. 

6. Collection is then made, as each one is able, 

for the support of the officers and the poor. 1 

That this was the general form observed in Ley- 
den we are quite sure. One of the records of the 
church in Plymouth contains this answer made by 
them to the objection current against them in 
England that the sacraments were not adminis- 
tered frequently enough: 

"The more is our grief that our pastor is kept 
from us, by whom we might enjoy them, for we 
used to have the Lord's supper every sabbath, 
and baptism as often as there was occasion of chil- 
dren to baptize." 2 

Robinson's. relations to the Reformed, or Cal- 

1 Clifton's "Advertisement," quoted in Robinson's Works, 3: 485. 

2 Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1795, Series 1, Vol. 4, p. 108. 


vinistic, churches of the city comes into view nat- 
urally at this point. In the year 1617 Paget wrote 
his "An Arrow against the Separation of the 
Brownists," in which he shows the inconsistency 
between Robinson's arguments concerning the 
use of churches in his controversy with Bernard 
(1610) * and his practice in Leyden, where " hath 
he for this long time tolerated Mr. Br[ewster] to 
hearc the word of God in such places. ,, 

" And not onely this/' Paget continues, " but 
now of late this last moneth [June or July, 1617] 
as is witnessed unto me, he, seeing (as it appears) 
how rashly and unsoundly he hath written against 
Mr. Bernard in this poynt, begins openly in the 
middle of his congregation to plead for the lawful 
use of these temples.'' 2 

This specific item of the use of churches erected 
and decorated according to the religious princi- 
ples of earlier days was only one element in the 
larger matter of the communion which Robinson 
thought permissible held between the Separatists 
and members of the Reformed churches. Cer- 
tainly in Leyden with Robinson's sanction there 
was a great deal of liberty allowed members of the 
church. And this involved a criticism which, 
along with other more serious charges, Robinson 

1 Works, 2:468-472. 

* Paget, "An Arrow," pp. 28, 29. 


sought to meet by the publication of a Latin 
"Apologia" in the year 1619. Here Robinson 
set forth at considerable length the differences 
between the two religious bodies. 

It is interesting just here to notice one of the 
causes which led Robinson to issue the " Apology." 
An anonymous Dutch poem had been exten- 
sively circulated in which the Reformed Church 
in the Netherlands was compared to a tree, and all 
the dissenting sects to certain beasts which were 
zealously endeavoring to overthrow the tree. But 
the stinging taunt of this poem bore hardest 
against the Separatists or Brownists, as they 
were called, who were likened "to a little worm, 
gnawing at the root thereof, and not having less 
will, but less power to hurt than the residue." 1 
This anonymous poem was a shaft sent home to 
Robinson's soul. It hurt worse than any more 
dignified assault could have done. 

The points of difference, as Robinson draws 
them out, demand only a brief notice. In doc- 
trine, barring the one item of the authority of 
the Apochryphal books of Scripture, the agree- 
ment between the Separatists and the Reformed 
churches is absolute. 

But the Separatists hold that no church, accord- 

1 Works, 3:8. 


ing to the New Testament model, ought to con- 
sist of more members than can meet together in 
one place; that only such children as are in cove- 
nant relations with the church by virtue of their 
parents are subjects for infant baptism; that read- 
ing forms of prayer is not right; that the elders 
ought all to be able to teach, also to serve for life, 
and to administer their official duties in public 
and not in " their private consistory." These are 
the more important items in the discussion. But 
the significance of the "Apology" lies in the gen- 
tler tones in which the controversy is carried on. 
It is conciliatory and kindly. Nothing could bet- 
ter illustrate the deepening process in Robinson's 
life than a contrast between the temper of his first 
writings in 1609 and 1610, and this book from a 
time ten years later. All the possible points of 
agreement are mentioned here before the issue is 
outlined. 1 The arguments of the Anglican oppo- 
nents are brought up, not " by way of accusa- 
tion," but only for the purpose of self-defense. 
The language used to describe the condition of 
the parishes has lost its venom. Even the bishops 
are mentioned in a kindly way, and Robinson 
brings forward the fact that, during the persecu- 
tions under Queen Mary, many of them gave their 

' Works, 3: 64-70. 


lives in witness for the truth. The conforming 
Puritans are not rebuked so harshly. 

It lets us quickly into the comprehension of 
this gracious spirit of the "Apology" to read a 
part of the concluding paragraph: 

"And here thou hast, Christian reader, the 
whole order of our conversation in the work of 
Christian religion, set down as briefly and plainly 
as I could. If in any thing we err, advertise us 
brotherly. . . . Err we may, alas! too easily: but 
heretics, by the grace of God we will not be." 

And at the very end Robinson wrote this peti- 
tion : 

"This alone remaineth, that we turn our faces, 
and mouths unto thee, most powerful Lord and 
gracious Father, humbly imploring help from God 
towards those who are by men left desolate. There 
is with thee no respect of persons, neither are men 
less regarders of thee if regarders of thee for the 
world's disregarding them. They who truly fear 
thee, and work righteousness, although constrained 
to live by leave in a foreign land, exiled from 
country, spoiled of goods, destitute of friends, few 
in number, and mean in condition, are for all that 
unto thee, gracious God, nothing the less accept- 
able. Thou numberest all their wanderings, and 
puttest their tears into thy bottles. Are they not 
written in thy book? Towards thee, Lord, are 
our eyes; confirm our hearts, and bend thine ear, 


and suffer not our feet to slip, or our face to be 
ashamed, O thou both just and merciful God. To 
him through Christ be praise forever in the church 
of saints; and to thee, loving and Christian reader, 
grace, peace and eternal happiness. Amen." 

The man who could write such words was one 
to whom the conditions of his exile were a constant 
pain. There is no mock humility or attempt to 
plead the misery of his lot purely for the purposes 
of argument here. One can see the sensitive 
spirit of Robinson bearing the peculiar grief of his 
humiliation, and trusting implicitly the infinite 
resources of his God. This prayer comes out of 
his heart. It shows a sensitive, gracious, proud 
spirit, trusting his God and doing his work with- 
out dejection. 

The prosperous years in Leyden were filled with 
other minor controversies in which the clear think- 
ing and wise control of Robinson appear. One 
of these gives us a glimpse of the inner life of the 
church in its meetings. It is the controversy 
with John Yates concerning the matter of " proph- 
esying out of office," or the whole matter of lay 
preaching. In his "Justification of Separation" 
(1610) Robinson took the ground that any per- 
son who had received the gift of public address 
or prayer which could be used in the church for 


edification, exhortation or comfort, was bound to > 
exercise this gift in public meetings of the church, i 
Women were barred out, however, by the direct 
command of the Scriptures that they must keep : 
silence in the churches. 1 This function, Robinson ' 
held, was to be exercised apart from any official 
connection with the church, as a part of every 
believer's duty and privilege. 

This position seems to have been unwelcome 
to many of Robinson's friends around Norwich, 
and one of them, William Euring, copied out the 
arguments from "Justification" and gave them 
to Rev. John Yates, with the request that they be 
publicly refuted by him. From these abstracts, 
and a later acquaintance with the book itself, 
Yates preached on the matter, and also wrote a 
refutation of Robinson's position. The sermon 
notes and the manuscript refutation, attested by 
a magistrate, were sent to Robinson in Leyden 
by William Euring. In reply, Robinson published 
"The People's Plea for the Exercise of Prophecy, 
against Mr. John Yates his Monopolie. By John 
Robinson." 3 (1618.) 

The treatise itself is one of the most tedious 
that we have from Robinson's pen. It consists 

1 "Justification," 2: 246, 248. 
1 Works, 3: 286-335. 


very largely in a detailed exegesis of passages of 
Scripture. Robinson stoutly maintains that the 
right to speak in public for the purpose of edifying, 
exhorting or comforting the church is a duty 
laid upon every member as well as upon the 
officers of the church. He is obliged to guard 
himself from the false position into which his 
opponents put him as they reduced his proposition 
to the absurdity that every member of a congrega- 
tion was bound to speak in public. It is only 
those male members who have the gift of public 
address who are so bound, Robinson holds. 

The Leyden congregation seems to have suf- 
fered from the abuse of privilege even in that early 
day, for Robinson says: 

" Neither . . . are they that speak in the exer- 
cise of prophecy to make a sermon by an hour- 
glass; . . . that were to abuse the time and 
wrong the gifts of others; but briefly to speak a 
word of exhortation, as God enableth, and that 
after the ministerial teaching be ended (as Acts 
13), questions about other things delivered, and 
with them even disputations." 1 

One of the most interesting stories in the his- 
tory of Robinson's congregation in Leyden is 
that which grows out of the offense given to King 

1 Works, 3: 327. 


James I by Elder William Brewster in the print- 
ing of Calderwood's odious book, "Perth Assem- 
bly. " We find no mention of the perils of the 
ruling elder during these months in any of Rob- 
inson's writing. And Bradford has given us only 
a paragraph concerning the fact that Elder Brew- 
ster was able, toward the latter part of his stay 
in Holland, to set up a place for printing. This 
meant that he had the type, and not, it is most 
likely, that he had a press. His partner was 
Thomas Brewer, who had a house near Robinson's. 
We know the general course of this difficulty 
between the English and Dutch officials and the 
Elder of Robinson's church, from the correspond- 
ence concerning it which is preserved in the Pub- 
lic Record Office in London. 1 For over a year 
following the time when the offensive book was 
first found by Sir Dudley Carleton, on July 27, 
1619, Brewster was the object of a keen search, 
and often escaped narrowly. At one time, about 
September 23, 1619, he was supposed to be 
safely in the hands of the authorities; but a 
drunken officer took the wrong man and Brewster 
escaped. Brewer, however, was arrested and the 
type seized. At this point the Ley den church 
appeared on the scene, offering bail for Brewer's 

1 Given in full in Arber, "Story of the Pilgrim Fathers," pp. 195 ff . 


release and insisting upon the privileges which he 
could claim for trial at the university as one of 
its members. The students also were stirred up 
by the Separatists to claim these privileges for 
their fellow. Brewer finally consented to go to 
England, and Robinson went with him to Rotter- 
dam, where he was to take passage for England. 
The journey was deferred for some time, owing 
to contrary winds. During this time Robinson 
had probably returned to Leyden. And we get a 
glimpse of the sternness and gravity of their life 
there in a letter which Sir Dudley Carleton writes: 

"I hope it [the fleet about to sail] will carry 
over Sir William Zouche and Master Brewer to 
your Honour; who have lain long together at 
Flushing; and his fellow Brownists at Leyden 
are somewhat scandalized, because they hear Sir 
William hath taught him to drink healths." 

We can almost hear the chuckle with which these 
representatives of King James would speak of this 
"fall from grace" on the part of Brewer. It is 
quite likely that a knowledge of the weaknesses 
of his parishioner may have been the motive which 
led Robinson to go with him to Rotterdam. 

Brewster never was apprehended. The Ley- 
den church shielded him successfully. Too much 
credit cannot be given Robinson and his congre- 


gation for their loyal support during that year 
of trial. 

Robinson was kept busy with the defense of 
the Separation from all sorts of attacks. One of 
these came from Thomas Helwisse, leader of John 
Smyth's church in Amsterdam after his death in 
1609. He did not remain long in the pastoral 
office, owing to his conviction that flight under 
persecution was wrong. Therefore he, with a 
considerable number of his followers, returned to 
England. From there he published a defense of 
himself and his friends in their action under the title, 
"A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity. " 
(1612.) In this work Helwisse not only advanced 
arguments to prove that it was wrong to flee from 
persecution and to remain in exile because of it, 
but also heaped reproaches upon the Separatist 
leaders who had fled to Holland and were remain- 
ing there under those conditions. He held that 
this flight from persecution had resulted in 

"the overthrow of religion in this island [Eng- 
land]; the best, ablest, and greater part being 
gone, and leaving behind them some few who, by 
the others' departure, have had their affliction 
and contempt increased, hath been the cause of 
many falling back, and of their adversaries' re- 
joicing." J 

1 A. H. Newman, "A History of the Baptist Churches in the United 
States." 1894, pp. 38-47. 


Helwisse made Robinson in particular the object 
of his attack 1 in this regard, as a leader of the 
emigration to escape persecution. In replying 
to the charge Robinson gives a clear statement of 
the unanimity with which the original movement 
to Holland was carried out. He says, 

" And for drawing over the people, I know none 
of the guides but were as much drawn over by 
them as drawing them. The truth is, it was Mr. 
Helwisse who above all, either guides or others, 
furthered this passage into strange countries: and 
if any brought oars, he brought sails." 2 

Robinson meets the arguments which Helwisse 
advanced from the Scripture example of Jacob, 
Moses, David, and Joseph carrying the infant 
Jesus into Egypt. The discussion is not signifi- 
cant enough, however, to delay lis longer. It 
was one of those over-refinements of scrupulous 
conscientiousness which had involved John Smyth 
in many troubles and plunged his successor into 
woe. It was a sporadic appearance of quite un- 
warranted criticism. 

This matter of flight in times of persecution 
did not end Robinson's difficulties with Helwisse. 
Smyth and Helwisse went together into the 

1 "Of Religious Communion, " 3: 160. 
* Works, 3: 159. 


formation of a new church in Amsterdam on the 
basis of another baptism than the one that they 
had received. Robinson describes this action 
as follows: 

"Mr. Smyth, Mr. Helwisse, and the rest, hav- 
ing utterly dissolved and disclaimed their former 
church, came together to erect a new church by 
baptism; unto which they also ascribed so great 
virtue, as that they would not so much as pray 
together before they had it. And after some 
straining of courtesy who should begin, and that, 
of John Baptist, Matt. 3:14 misalleged, Mr. Smyth 
baptized first himself, and next Mr. Helwisse, and 
so the rest, making their particular confessions. " * 

Robinson says that he heard this from Smyth 
and Helwisse themselves. 

The discussion that follows is interesting chiefly 
because of its bearing upon the positions held by 
the Separatists relative to those of the Anabap- 
tists. Joseph Hall, in his first discussion with 
Robinson, sought to force him to the Anabap- 
tist grounds, i.e. that rebaptism is necessary for 
those who separate from a church order which 
they hold to be false. Hall put the dilemma in 
this way: 

"If wee bee a true Church, you must returne. 
If wee bee not . . . you must rebaptize." 2 

1 Works, 3: 168. 

* Hall, "Common Apologie," p. 26. 


Helwisse and his successor, Murton, followed 
the same line of argument which Hall used. Hel- 
wisse carried his charges so far as to assert that, 
if the Separatists did not rebaptize they were 
" of the world, infidels, haters of Christ, and what 
not/' He said, in substance, the Separatists call 
the Anglicans Babylon, yet they retain the Angli- 
can baptism, and are thereby sealed into the 
covenant of grace by the seal of Babylon. This 
charge Robinson met in this proposition: 1 

"We retain the seal of the covenant of grace, 
though ministered in Babylon; and not the bap- 
tism of Babylon, but the baptism of the Lord in 
itself and by the Babylonians spiritually usurped 
and profaned; but by faith and the Spirit, now 
sanctified to our use." 

Baptism has in it two elements, one essential and 
the other accidental. The first is the use of water 
in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, 
the seal of the covenant of grace; the other is acci- 
dental, the manner of administering the essential 
rite, which includes the minister, the recipient, and 
the communion in which the rite is bestowed. 
The essential baptism may be administered and 
received in the Roman Catholic or the Anglican 
Church, although the manner of administering it be 

1 Works, 3: 167. 


wholly false. If the outer baptism, administered 
in a false church order, be nevertheless a sign of 
the inner baptism of the Spirit, it is a true spirit- 
ual ordinance, though abased and abused. Such 
the baptism of the Church of England was to the 
Separatists, and, therefore, they retain it. 

A long discussion concerning the proper subject 
of baptism, which Robinson carried on against 
Helwisse and Murton, is only a reassertion of the* 
Separatist principle that the children of parents 
who are in covenant relations with God are them- 
selves comprehended in all the privileges of their 
parents, "as the branches in the roots." Infants 
are, therefore, proper subjects for baptism. Rob- 
inson adds nothing new to the familiar arguments 
on this point. 

Robinson's ministry in Leyden was not con- 
fined absolutely to his own congregation, although 
he always thought of his work as primarily con- 
cerned with the particular congregation over 
which he was set. In reply to Helwisse, however, 
Robinson asserted that he had "so preached to 
others in those cities, as that by the blessing of 
God working with us, we have gained more to 
the Lord than Mr. Helwisse 's church consists of." 1 
These converts in Amsterdam and Leyden must 

1 Works, 3: 160. 


have come from English-speaking people, and 
were probably from the large number of Puritans 
who were resident in Holland either voluntarily 
for business reasons or on account of persecution 
in England. The fact that Robinson was recog- 
nized as a preacher of power is indicated by the 
fact that David Calderwood, author of the 
"Perth Assembly," published in 1619, and so 
odious to King James, was a very close friend 
of Robinson and accustomed to attend service in 
Robinson's church in order to hear him preach. 1 

Robinson formed many other close friendships 
with strong men during these prosperous years in 
Leyden. With some of these he agreed and with 
some he differed. William Ames, Robert Parker, 
David Calderwood and Henry Jacob were mem- 
bers of the circle of his friends in Leyden. From 
them he received many a personal influence which 
changed his thought and practice. To one of 
them, at least, he gave that peculiar direction 
which led him to become the founder of the Inde- 
pendent churches in England. This was Henry 

Concerning the peace and order of the Leyden 
church there is no question. It was not until 

1 Winslow's "Hypocrisie Unmasked," quoted in Dexter, "Congrega- 
tionalism as Seen," p. 306, note 126. 


1645 that Robert Baylie of Glasgow, in his "A 
Dissuasive from the Errors of the Time," claimed 
that Robinson's congregation was nearly destroyed 
by internal dissensions. Winslow disputed this in 
his "Hypocrisie Unmasked/' in 1646, and John 
Cotton proved the statement false by his "The 
Way of Congregational Churches cleared from the 
Historical Aspersions of Mr. Robert Baylie," pub- 
lished in 1648. Winslow 's testimony concerning 
the condition of the church in Leyden is worthy 
of careful reading: 

"For I persuade myself, never people upon 
earth lived more lovingly together and parted 
more sweetly than we, the Church at Leyden, did; 
not rashly, in a distracted humor, but upon joint 
and serious deliberation, often seeking the mind 
of God by fasting and prayer; whose gracious 
presence we not only found with us, but his bless- 
ing upon us, from that time to this instant, to the 
indignation of our adversaries, the admiration of 
strangers, and the exceeding consolation of our- 
selves, to see such effects of our prayers and tears 
before our pilgrimage here be ended." l 

Busy thus with study, controversy, preaching, 
parish work, and the sweet intimacies of friendship, 
Robinson spent the years in Leyden until he was 
called upon to make his last great sacrifice for the 

* Winslow, "Hypocrisie Unmasked," in Young's "Chronicles," 1841, 
p. 380. 


Separation and send the stronger part of his con- 
gregation out upon an enterprise which he had 
himself helped to plan for them. This was the 
exodus of the Pilgrim Fathers to America, which, 
although it seemed to be the pastor's greatest 
sacrifice, was destined to be the avenue of his 
greatest power. 





In spite of seeming success and prosperity in 
Leyden, Robinson and Brewster were both far- 
sighted enough to see very clearly that any exten- 
sion of their ideas concerning church government 
was quite impossible among the Dutch. The 
persistence of their own congregation, in the face 
of influences necessarily springing from an envi- 
ronment in a strange land, appeared to them quite 
improbable also. The reasons which would nat- 
urally turn the minds of these men, who had known 
the hardship and pain of one exile already, to- 
ward another emigration were complex; but they 
may be reduced to three. 

The first of these was the danger which threat- 
ened their cause if they should remain in Holland. 
The children of parents who have suffered for a 
principle never know fully what such championship 
costs, and they hold those principles less tena- 
ciously than their fathers did. With the third 
generation the truth once thought worth dying 
for becomes far weaker in its grip upon the grand- 



Another motive was the missionary purpose. 
The savages in America offered a fresh field for 
the preaching of the gospel; this was a great 
motive in all the work of Robinson. When one 
of his opponents, Helwisse, charged him with 
cowardice in having fled from persecution in Eng- 
land, Robinson replied with a clear expression of 
his view concerning the supreme duty of preach- 
ing, even in exile. He claimed that no man was 
freed from his obligation to preach through the 
fact of his exile; but everywhere, even under the 
most distressing conditions, the minister must be 
a preacher. And Robinson never lost his mis- 
sionary zeal. 1 

There was an additional motive which was very 
strong in the minds of Robinson and Brewster. 
It was their desire to find a place to live where 
their hardships of every kind might be lessened, 
in order that many persons, who chose to submit 
to the obnoxious ceremonies and the order of the 
church established by law in England, rather than 
to endure the shame of exile and the hardships of 
life in Holland, might come fully into the ranks 
of the Separation if those hardships were once re- 
moved. Robinson perceived the fact that there 
were many Puritans who would^do this if only 

'Works, 3: 160. 


they "might have liberty and live comfortably. " 
This point must not be underestimated in con- 
sidering the purpose which induced the Leyden 
church to undertake the emigration. It undoubt- 
edly played a very large part in Robinson's plans. 
And when we consider the weight which he gave 
to this reason in the light of the later history of 
the colonies in Massachusetts, we must be struck 
with the sagacity of Robinson. Exactly what he 
expected to happen did happen, and the Puritans 
became Separatists when, in America, the hard- 
ships of the Dutch life were removed. Robin- 
son's analysis of the situation was remarkable 
for its clearness and foresight. It probably rested 
in no slight degree upon what he had himself seen 
in Leyden, where, under his own preaching, the 
Separation had made decided gains among the 
English-speaking residents. If this measure of 
success were possible in Leyden, how much more 
so under better conditions in America! 

The idea was not entirely new. As early as 
1597 members of the Barrowist group of Separa- 
tists in London petitioned to be allowed to form 
part of a projected colony in America, and Francis 
and George Johnson were allowed to go. But the 
whole expedition was a failure. 1 This very failure 

x Dexter, "Congregationalism as Seen," pp. 277, 278. 


was used as a taunt against Robinson by Joseph 
Hall, who said that the Separatists had been 
turbulent alike at home, in prison, in the 
Netherlands and " in the coasts of Virginia." 

There is no doubt that the movement itself 
originated in the minds of Robinson and Brew- 
ster, "out of their Christian care of the flock of 
Christ committed to them." 1 The plan was 
thoroughly debated by Robinson and Brewster, 
and then was broached to certain more influen- 
tial members of the congregation. After private 
discussion the matter was publicly proposed and 
debated. The congregation sought to know the! 
will of God in the matter by fasting and prayer 
no less than by careful examination of the whole 
project from the standpoint of human wisdom. 

This general method of proceeding is a practical \ 
illustration of the definite theory concerning the \ 
place of officers in the conduct of church affairs 
which Robinson consistently held. They took the | 
lead; they discussed all projects fully; but the final J 
decision of all questions rested with the church. 

There seemed to be common agreement on the 
expediency of another move. The most desirable 
place to which to go involved the largest difficulty 
in settlement. Many were in favor of Guiana, 

1 Winslow, "Hypocrisie Unmasked," pp. 88, 89. 


because the climate was tropical and life would 
be easy there. Others were stoutly inclined to- 
ward Virginia, because the English already had 
a foothold there, and it was not so thoroughly a 
movement into a foreign land. The objection to 
Virginia was that there also they would be liable 
to persecution on religious grounds. The final 
decision was "to live as a distinct body by them- 
selves, under the general government of Virginia ;" 
to petition King James to grant them freedom in 
religion, and, if this should be granted, to carry 
the enterprise forward, inasmuch as they had good 
hopes under such favorable conditions of backing 
from "Great Persons of good rank and quality." * 

In carrying out this general plan the Leyden 
brethren began by sending Robert Cushman and 
John Carver to England to begin negotiations in 
1617. The story of these negotiations in detail 
as they were carried forward in England does not 
concern our narrative. We will therefore only 
touch upon a point here and there in which it is 
possible to discover the signs of Robinson's activ- 
ity in the matter. It is plain from the outset that 
Robinson and Brewster together were the persons 
of prime influence and authority in the project. 
They signed the articles which were sent by the 

1 Bradford, "Of Plimoth Plantation," pp. 36, 37. 


Leyden church to Cushman and Carver for use in 
advancing their cause with the king. These arti- 
cles l were doubtless drawn up by Robinson about 
November, 1617. They minimize the differences 
between the Separatists and members of the 
Church of England, and are in every way con- 
ciliatory and fraternal. The distinctive note of 
Robinson's teaching is the second article, which 

"As we do acknowledge the doctrine of faith 
there [i. e. in the Church of England] taught, so 
do we [acknowledge] the fruits and effects of the 
same doctrine, to the begetting of saving faith in 
thousands in the land (Conformists and Reform- 
ists), as they are called, with whom also as with 
our brethren we do desire to keep spiritual com- 
munion in peace, and will practice on our parts 
all lawful things." 

The delegates gained the help of Sir Edwin 
Sandys, and the articles were used very success- 
fully in carrying forward the plans. In a letter 
in December, 1617, Sir Edwin Sandys wrote to 
Robinson and Brewster reporting progress in the 
plans and commending the delegates, who were 
about to return to Leyden for instructions. 

To make clear the points which were obscure 
or unsatisfactory, Robinson and Brewster drew 

1 See N. Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series 2, Vol. 3, pp. 295-302. 


up a statement, which was signed by a majority 
of the congregation. This was sent to the Council 
for Virginia by Carver and Cushman. They also 
sent a letter, in December, 1617, to Sir Edwin 
Sandys, expressing their personal gratitude to him 
for his services already rendered, and urging him 
to continue to help them. 

But the king would not grant the Separatists 
religious freedom in explicit terms and under his 
seal. He went so far as to say, " that he would [ 
connive at them, and not molest them, provided \ 
they carried themselves peaceably." The Vir-' 
ginia Company sought^to persuade the Leyden 
brethren to go on, trusting that everything would 
be as they wished in spite of the king's refusal 
positively to sanction their religious freedom. 

When the agents returned to Leyden with this 
report there was a division of opinion in the church. 
Probably the majority were inclined to believe 
that this promise of King James was altogether 
too insecure a foundation upon which to risk a 
move which involved the selling of household 
goods and a long, perilous journey into a strange 
land. It was natural enough that this should be so. 
These men had learned prudence because they had 
suffered much. 

On the other hand, "some of the Chiefest" 


thought that they were quite warranted in pro- 
ceeding even upon this very uncertain consent 
of the king. Among the "Chiefest" was surely 
enough Robinson, and Bradford gives us a little 
of his reasoning in the matter, which shows that 
he knew the character of kings, and of James in 
particular, pretty thoroughly. He argued that 
there was no special difference between the prom- 
ises of King James, whether they were intimated 
or confirmed: 

"For if, afterwards, there should be a purpose 
or desire to wrong them [the Separatists], though 
they had a seal as broad as the house floor, it would 
not serve the turn; for there would be means 
enough found to recall or reverse it. And seeing 
therefore the course was probable, they must rest 
herein on God's Providence, as they had done in 
other things." 

A long time was consumed in the settling of 
these contrary opinions in Leyden. It was not 
until early in 1619 that Brewster and Cushman 
were sent to England to proceed with the Vir- 
ginia Company and close also with the merchants 
who were to furnish or "adventure" the money 
for the ships and supplies. They found the Com- 
pany in a hopeless wrangle. A patent was granted, 
however, June 19, 1619. But the long delays had 
disappointed their friends as well as themselves; 


the merchants were no longer ready with their 
means. This patent never was used, for the Vir- 
ginia Company was unable to lend any financial 
aid, and this was absolutely necessary to the Ley- 
den brethren. 

It was early in the year 1620 that the Leyden 
church, evidently discouraged at the seeming 
failure of their efforts in England, turned to the 
directors of the Dutch New Netherland Company 
for help. On the 11th of April, 1620, the States 
General rejected a petition of these directors, 
dated February 12, 1620, a paragraph of which 
refers to this action of the Leyden men. It is as 

"Now it happens that there is residing at Ley- 
den a certain English Preacher, versed in the 
Dutch language, who is well inclined to proceed 
thither to live: assuring the Petitioners that he 
has the means of inducing over four hundred fam- 
ilies to accompany him thither, both out of this 
country and England. Provided they would be 
guarded and preserved from all violence on the 
part of other potentates, by the authority and 
under the protection of your Princely Excellency 
and the High and Mighty Lords States General, 
in the propagation of the true pure Christian 
religion, in the instruction of the Indians in that 
country in true learning, and in converting them 
to the Christian faith: and thus, through the 


mercy of the Lord, to the greater glory of this 
country, to plant there a new Commonwealth. " l 

The directors petitioned that "the aforesaid 
Minister," in whom we recognize Robinson, to- 
gether with the families who were ready to follow 
him, be taken under Dutch protection and that 
two ships be sent to secure for that country the 
New Netherland, between New France and Vir- 

The petition was rejected, but another series 
of negotiations was begun with the Dutch imme- 
diately. This, however, was broken off by Rob- 
inson before April 11, 1620, at the request of a 
London merchant, Mr. Thomas Weston, to whose 
counsel Robinson took heed. 2 Weston had 
known the members of the Leyden congregation 
before, and now, after conferring with Robinson 8 
and other influential members of the congrega- 
tion, he persuaded them to go on with their 
plans, leaving the Dutch and depending upon the 
Virginia Company. 

The details of the plan at length agreed upon 
need not concern us now. There were many 
vexations, uncertainties and trials attending the 
organization of the movement, but the resolution 

1 Arber, " The Story," etc., pp. 297, 298. 
. a See Robinson's letter to Carver, in Arber, "The Story," etc, p. 317. 
8 Bradford, "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 64. 


of the church was carried out in spite of all these. 
That final resolution was made at the close of a 
public fast, when it was decided: that the younger 
and stronger, volunteers only, should go first, 
and the remainder stay behind; that if the major- 
ity should volunteer to go, Pastor Robiason was 
to accompany them; if the minority went, Elder 
Brewster was to go; if the enterprise should be a 
success, then those who went should help the aged 
and poor who remained in Holland to come over 
to New England later. 

The majority decided to remain, although the 
excess was only a few, and therefore Robinson 
remained behind and Brewster went with the 
minority. The church was curiously divided. 
They agreed to resolve themselves into distinct 
churches, although Robinson was still their 
pastor, and in case any came from Holland to 
America, or returned, they were to be received 
as members of the other body with no letter 
of dismission or commendation required. The 
organization of the church in this way is quite 
anomalous. But the whole purpose was to bring 
the united company together in the near future 
in the new home, and this doubtless seemed to 
warrant so strange a scheme of church order. 

So the time drew near for the separation of the 


little church. Winslow and Bradford describe 
the last meeting at Leyden on the evening of 
July 30, 1620. It was a day of great joy and 
sadness alike. Winslow says that those who were 
to remain in Holland "feasted us that were to 
go, at our Pastor's house, [it] being large," and 
describes the effect of the singing as " the sweet- 
est melody that ever mine ears heard," for many 
of the congregation were very expert at music. 
Bradford speaks of the event as "a Day of Sol- 
emn Humiliation," when Robinson preached a 
sermon which was drawn from Ezra 8 : 21, and with 
which "he spent a good part of the day very 
profitably and suitable to their present condition." 

The next day, Friday, July 31, 1620, they 
left Leyden and, accompanied by the larger part 
of those who were to remain behind, went to 
Delfshaven, where they were to go on board the 
ship that was waiting for them. Here several 
friends from Amsterdam met them, and they 
spent the evening together. Robinson was still 
with his church. 

The next morning, August 1, they went on 
board the ship. Every moment was spent in 

"But the tide, which stays for no man, calling 
them away that were thus loath to depart; their 


Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and 
they all with him, with watery cheeks, commended 
them, with most fervent prayers, to the Lord and 
his blessing. And then, with mutual embraces 
and many tears, they took their leaves one of 
another; which proved to be the last leave to 
many of them." * 

These closing scenes in the history of the Leyden 
church, thus together for the last time on the soil 
of Holland, have been a favorite subject for the 
imaginative lover of the story. Robinson has been 
described as taking leave of the members of his 
flock in different ways and places; but however 
varied the objective setting of the scene, one point 
is surely fixed and clear. It was a day of the 
deepest significance to Robinson himself. Years 
afterward the memory of it was clear to Bradford. 
It must have been an hour of anguish to Robin- 
son. Here were the strongest members of the 
church which he had built up and served, a numer- 
ical minority, indeed, but the very flower and 
strength of his congregation, about to leave him 
and set out upon a new enterprise, filled with 
peril. Aside from any question of personal dis- 
appointment at the decision concerning himself, 
it was a time of inexpressible sorrow to the heart 
of the faithful pastor. Bradford's words picture 

1 Bradford, " Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 73. 


the passionate grief of the scene very plainly. 
That last prayer and the concluding benediction 
were poured out from a great, sympathetic heart, 
which had without question intuitively appre- 
hended to some degree the suffering which did take 
place during the next winter on the bleak slopes 
at Plymouth. There are few places in all this 
story where the greatness and strength of Robin- 
son appear more vividly than in this hour of almost 
sacrificial anguish, when he bade the flower of his 
church that last farewell at Delfshaven. 




At this point in the narrative we must take up 
a detailed examination of that address or ser- 
mon which Robinson is reported by Winslow to 
have delivered to the members of his church who 
were about to depart for America. This has 
become the best known utterance and episode in 
the whole life of Robinson, on account of the dis- 
cussion which has gathered around the phrase 
"more light/ ' which is used by Winslow in his 

The source of our knowledge of the occasion 
and the words which Robinson used is in the 
defense which was made by Edward Winslow in 
behalf of the colonies against Samuel Gorton and 
others, in the year 1646. The mission of meeting 
the charges was entrusted to Winslow by the 
colony in view of the seriousness of the attack 
which had been made upon it. Two points must 
be kept clearly in view from the outset. The 
first is the date of Winslow 's book. It was not 
published until the year 1646, and, therefore, 



our knowledge of the "Farewell Address," as 
we will hereafter call it, comes from a source 
which bears a date over twenty-five years after 
the occasion on which it was delivered. This 
item of time may mean much or little, according 
to the reasons we may have for believing that 
there was any special purpose for which the Address 
would have been remembered or preserved. The 
second point is this: Winslow's book is apolo- 
getic in its purpose. It is designed to meet seri- 
ous charges with sufficient arguments. It is not 
a set of annals or a history to which we must go 
for our knowledge of the Address, but an apolo- 
getic treatise in the interests of Separatists * in 
which the author, under a special commission, 
replies to objections against New England which 
prevailed in the mother country. There were 
several of these, among which was this: 

1 The full title of this book is interesting enough to warrant its reprint 
here. It is: HYPOCU1SIE VNMASKED: By A True Relation of the 
Proceedings of the Governour and Company of the Massachusetts against 
Samvel Gorton, (and his Accomplices), a notorious disturber of the Peace 
and quiet of the eeverall Governments wherein he lived: With the grounds 
and reasons thereof, examined and allowed by their Generall Court 
holden at Boston in New England, in November last, 1646. Together* 
with a particular Answer to the manifold slanders and abominable false- 
hoods which are contained in a Book written by the said Gorton, and en- 
tituled Simplicities Defence against Seven-headed Policy, &c. Discover- 
ing to the view of all whose eyes are open, his manifold Blasphemies; as 
also the dangerous agreement which he and his Accomplices made with 
ambitious and treacherous Indians, who at the same time were deeply 
engaged in a desperate Conspiracy to cut off all the rest of the English in 


"because (say they) the Church of Plymouth, 
which went first from Leyden, were schismatics, 
Brownists, rigid Separatists, &c, having Mr. 
Robinson for their pastor who made and to the 
last professed separation from other the churches 
of Christ, &c. And the rest of the Churches in 
New England, holding communion with that 
church, are to be reputed such as they are." 

Against this common false statement, Winslow 
advanced four counter arguments. These were: 
1. Robinson's daily teaching in his ministry, 
under which Winslow lived in Leyden from 1617 
to 1620, which always was against separation from 
any of the Reformed churches. 2. The "Apol- 
ogy," published in English and Latin, and easy 
to be had in either language at that time 
(1646). 3. The common practice of the Leyden 
church in allowing communion with the Reformed 
churches, many instances of which Winslow gives. 
4. And, finally, the "wholesome counsel" that 

the other Plantations. Whereunto is added a Briefe Narration (occa- 
sioned by certain aspersions) of the true grounds or cause of the first 
Planting of New England ; the Precedent of their Churches in the way and 
worship of God; their Communion with the Reformed Churches; and 
their practise towards those that dissent from them in matters of Religion 
and Church Government. By EDWARD WINSLOW. Psalm cxx. 
3, 4. "What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be done unto thee, 
thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. " 
Published by Authority. LONDON. Printed by Rich. Cotes for John 
Bellamy at the Three Golden Lions in Cornhill, neare the Royall Ex- 
change. 1646. 


Robinson gave to the exiles previous to their 
departure, which was proof positive that the 
charge was false. 
The "wholesome counsel" is quoted as follows* 

"In the next place, for the wholesome counsell 
Mr. Robinson gave that part of the Church whereof 
he was Pastor, at their departure from him to 
begin the great worke of Plantation in New Eng- 
land, amongst other wholesome Instructions and 
Exhortations, hee used these expressions, or to 
the same purpose; We are now ere long to part 
asunder, and the Lord knoweth whether ever he 
should live to see our faces again; but whether 
the Lord had appointed it or not, he charged us 
before God and his blessed Angels, to follow him 
no further than he followed Christ. And if God 
should reveal anything to us by any other instru- 
ment of his, to be as ready to receive it, as ever 
we were to receive any truth by his Ministry: For 
he was very confident the Lord had more truth 
and light yet to breake forth out of his holy Word. 
He took occasion also miserably to bewaile the 
state and condition of the Reformed churches, who 
were come to a period in Religion, and would 
goe no further than the instruments of their Refor- 
mation : As for example, the Lutherans they could 
not be clrawne to goe beyond what Luther saw, 
for whatever part of God's will he had further 
imparted and revealed to Calvin, they will rather 
die than embrace it. And so also, saith he, you 
see the Calvinists, they stick where he left them; 


A misery much to bee lamented; For though they 
were precious shining lights in their time, yet God 
had not revealed his whole will to them : And were 
they now living, saith hee, they would bee as 
ready and willing to embrace further light, as 
that they had received. Here also he put us in 
mind of our Church-Covenant (at least that part 
of it) whereby wee promise and covenant with 
God and one with another, to receive whatsoever 
light or truth shall be made known to us from his 
written Word: but withall exhorted us to take 
heed what we received for truth, before we received 
it. For, saith he, It is not possible the Christian 
world should come so lately out of such thick Anti- 
christian darknesse, and tliat full perfection of knowl- 
edge should breake forth at once. " 1 

This is the original and the only source of our 
knowledge of the words of Robinson which com- 
pose the Farewell Address. All other reports go 
back to this, 2 and the discussion of the trust- 
worthiness of our knowledge of the Address is 
concerned solely with Winslow's report. 

As to the time when the Farewell Address was 
delivered, we cannot determine precisely. There 
were several fasts held by the church in connection 
with the emigration. One was at the time when 

1 See Young's " Chronicles," 1841, p. 396. Quoted in Dexter "Con- 
gregationalism as Seen," p. 404. 

•Mather, "Magnalia," 1: 14. Neal, "History of N. E.," 1:77. 
Belknap, "American Biography," 2: 172. 


the final decision was made concerning the num- 
ber who were to go. It may have been then that 
Robinson preached Ja sermon from the text, "And 
David's men said vnto him, See, we be afrayed 
here in Judah, how much more if we come to Kei- 
lah against the hoste of the Philistims? Then 
David asked counsell of the Lorde againe. And 
the Lorde answered him, and saide, Arise, go 
downe to Keilah: for I wil deliuer the Philistims 
into thine hand." (1 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4. Genevan 

It seems less probable, however, that the Ad- 
dress belongs here than that it was a part of some 
later sermon. The words "we are now ere long 
to part asunder," would seem to indicate an event 
near the embarkation, either the farewell feast at 
Robinson's house in Leyden, or the leave-taking 
at Delfshaven before the embarkation of those who 
were to sail for America. The more probable of 
these two occasions is the former, since the final 
meeting at Delfshaven seems to have been a short 
one, and chiefly occupied by Robinson's prayer. 
Therefore this wholesome counsel may have been a 
part of the sermon which Robinson preached from 
the text/" And there at the Riuer, by Ahaua, I 
proclaymed a fast, that we might humble ourselues 
before our God, and seeke of him a ryght way for 


vs, and for our children, and for all our substance." 
(Ezra 8:21, Genevan Version.) 

There seems to have been no doubt entertained 
concerning the reliable character of Winslow 's 
report until George Sumner published a note on 
the matter at the close of his " Memoirs of the Pil- 
grims at Ley den." * Sumner did not deem the 
evidence sufficient to warrant him in branding 
Winslow 's report as false; but the whole report 
seemed to him somewhat open to question. For 
Winslow, he pointed out, gives the report freely, 
after a lapse of twenty-five or twenty-six years, 
and there is no other report of the discourse to be 
found anywhere. The pages of Bradford, con- 
temporary controversy, and the records of the 
Leyden-Plymouth church are alike silent in the 
matter. Winslow does not say whether his report 
of the wholesome counsel is from notes, or whether 
he is simply recording a memory. 

But there is no special reason why this discourse 
should have been copied into the church records 
or accurately reported from notes, unless there 
was something startling or peculiar in it. It re- 
quires no special feat of memory for a man who 
had been for three years a listener to a person's 
preaching, to give a reliable report, even after 

1 See "Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll.," Series 3, Vol. ix, pp. 70, 71. 


twenty-six years, of an address which was sig- 
nificant at the time only because it emphasized 
with unusual clearness something which had been 
all the while central and explicit in the preacher's 
thought and practice. 

Hence we are driven back to the matter of inter- 
nal evidence. And here we find that there is 
nothing novel in the subject matter of the report 
which Winslow gives. There are parallels to every 
statement of the Farewell Address in the writings 
of Robinson. One who never had read the sources 
might be surprised at Winslow 's report, but one 
who knows Robinson intimately is not. Here is 
no foreign note; here is no surprise. The Farewell 
Address is precisely what we should expect to find. 
The fact that it appears in a report, informally 
given a quarter of a century after the event, does 
not awaken suspicion as to its genuineness in the 
mind of one who has read thoroughly the preserved 
writings of Robinson. We are confident that Rob- 
inson is correctly reported for substance of doc- 
trine by Winslow. 

The central point in the whole Address is the 
matter of "more light, " which Robinson felt sure 
was yet to break forth from the Bible. To what 
did he refer? This brings us to the interpretation 
of the Farewell Address, and we must begin at 


once by taking up the most significant one ever 
attempted. This was by Dr. Henry Martyn Dex- 
ter. 1 His purpose was polemic. This is per- 
fectly evident from the way in which he implies 
an antagonist throughout his discussion. He says, 
Robinson "has been persistently put wrong by 
those who, never having much studied his writ- 
ings and unfamiliar with the real judgment, doc- 
trine and spirit of the man, have interpreted him 
too much in the light of their own temper and 
times, and too little in that of those which were 
actual with him." And "it is impossible that he 
should have spoken to the Plymouth men in the 
sense in which he has been commonly reputed 
to have spoken. Nothing short of insanity could 
have made him teach after the fashion of the self- 
styled 'advanced thinkers' of to-day.' ' 

Dr. Dexter seeks to show that there was in Rob- 
inson " a habit of mind irreconcilably at variance 
with the fundamental principles of modern ration- 
alism.' ' He also speaks of "that high pedestal 
whereon the late generations — and more especially 
the heterodox among them — have delighted to 
exalt him as the apostle of a thought so progres- 
sive as to be quite out of sight of his own time, and 
the prophet of a liberalism having unlimited capac- 
ity to 'embrace further light.' " 

1 "Congregationalism as Seen." pp. 400-410. 


From these^quotations it will be seen at once 
that Dr. Dexter 's purpose in his critical examina- 
tion of the Farewell Address is to meet the claim 
made by the Unitarian and liberal theologians 
of the past century, that Robinson was an early 
prophet of their temper and progress in matters of 
doctrine. This was a claim which a man of Dr. 
Dexter 's temper would not brook without protest, 
and this protest takes shape in the interpretation 
of the Address which we will now proceed to 

The interpretation itself has met both favor 
and discredit. Dr. Dexter was a scholar of such 
large resource that he carried great weight in such 
an argument as he here presents. That argument 
has been welcomed by some who are distressed 
to hear Robinson claimed by so-called "liberals"; 
by others, and now probably by the large majority, 
irrespective of class or label, the interpretation 
has been rejected. But we do not know where Dr. 
Dexter 's interpretation has itself been subjected 
to a critical examination. And this must be done 
before it is possible to maintain any ground. 

Let us go over Dr. Dexter 's argument. 

His first attempt is to show that John Robin- 
son was a defender of the creed of the Synod of 
Dort, both as regards the general theological posi- 


tions maintained by that great. creed, and also as 
regards "that animus of infallibility and inex- 
posure to essential future modification in which it 
held them" [i. e. those positions]. Here we must 
keep two points in mind. The first is the body 
of doctrine itself; the second is its "animus of 
infallibility. " 

That Robinson was in hearty agreement with 
the doctrine, his "Defence" bears abundant wit- 
ness. It is a whole-hearted championship of the 
articles. But that he anywhere sanctioned the 
"animus of infallibility," or that he recognized 
such an " animus" to exist is utterly without war- 
rant from any statement contained in the treatise 
just mentioned. 

Dr. Dexter does not seek to prove his point from 
the "Defence," but turns to Robinson's "Essays" 
in order to display there the signs of a habit of 
mind which would lead us to feel sure that Rob- 
inson never held the possibility of progress in doc- 
trine, although he might grant such a possibility 
in respect to polity. 

Just here we must make one clear distinction 
and insist that it be held. There is a difference 
between the final and complete authority of the 
Scriptures per se, and the perfect and unchange- 
able authority of human comprehension of the 


Scriptures. That difference was recognized by 
John Robinson. When we assert it, we are not 
putting into his mind a modern distinction of 
which he was ignorant. We find it on page after 
page of his writings. 

Dr. Dexter is quite right in bringing the quota- 
tions which he does from the "Essays" to show 
that Robinson believed that the Scriptures "carry 
their authoritie in their mouthes. " Robinson most 
surely holds that "Divine Authoritie is to sway 
with us above all Reason: yea Reason teacheth 
that God is both to be beleeved and obeyed in the 
things for which man can see no Reason. " 

But no quotation brought by Dr. Dexter touches 
the question as to whether there might not be a 
legitimate place for reason in the search for 
authority, or whether there might not be a pro- 
gressive and enlarging grasp of divine truth itself. 
The fact that nothing of the sort is advanced by 
Dr. Dexter compels us to go to Robinson's writ- 
ings to see if such quotations may not be found. 
And we do net need to seek far. In the very 
essay, "Of Authority and Reason/' from which 
Dr. Dexter quotes to justify his contention, we 
find this explicit statement by Robinson: 1 

"The custom of the Church is but the custom 

1 "Essaya" in Works, 1: 56. 


of men: the sentence of the fathers but the opin- 
ion of men: the determination of councils but the 
judgments of men, what men soever. And so, if 
all men in the world, not immediately directed, 
as were extraordinary prophets, and apostles, in 
whom the Spirit spake and testified by them, 
should consent in one, as they, notwithstanding 
their multitude, were but men, though many, so 
was their testimony but human, though of many 
men; neither could it challenge any other than 
human assent unto it; and not that neither [i. e. 
either] absolutely, either in matters of discourse 
of reason, wherein it is possible that men should 
deceive themselves; or of relation from others, 
by whom they may be deceived. We are there- 
fore to beware that we neither wrong ourselves 
by credulity, nor others by unjust suspicion." 

This would surely seem to settle once for all 
Robinson's acceptance of "the animus of infal- 
libility " which went with the decrees of the Dort 
Council. But let us supplement this by another 
quotation. In his "Justification of Separation," 
he says: 

" But on the other side [that is, instead of giving 
great weight to the opinions of other men in every 
matter] for a man so far to suffer his thoughts to 
be conjured into the circle of any mortal man or 
men's judgment, as either to fear to try what is 
offered to the contrary, in the balance of the sanc- 
tuary, or finding it to bear weight, to fear to give 


sentence on the Lord's side, yea though it be 
against the mighty, this is to honour men above 
God, and to advance a throne above the throne of 
Christ, who is Lord and King forever. And to 
speak that in this case, which by doleful experience 
I myself have found, many of the most forward 
professors in the Kingdom are well nigh as super- 
stitiously addicted to the determinations of their 
guides and teachers, as the ignorant papists unto 
theirs, accounting it not only needless curiosity, 
but even intolerable arrogancy, to call into ques- 
tion the things received from them by tradition." l 

Before making a deduction from these quota- 
tions, it will be well to recall the fact that Robin- 
son himself bears witness to the bondage in which 
he was held for a long time to the opinions of men 
more learned than himself. His utterances just 
quoted grew out of his own experience. 

From the above it cannot fail to be obvious 
that, while Robinson insisted upon the Scripture 
as the final authority in all matters of both doctrine 
and polity, he did not hold that the decrees of any 
council were infallible. Nor do we find that there 
is the least warrant for Dr. Dexter 's preliminary 
proposition that the " ethical and theological posi- 
tion of Mr. Robinson's mind" rendered it inca- 
pable of receiving "more light" in matters of 

1 Works, 2:52. 


Instead of this, the presumption would seem 
to be sufficiently clear that the heart and mind of 
Robinson were open to all light from all sources 
shed from or upon the final authority, the Word 
of God. 

When Dr. Dexter passes to the specific argu- 
ment drawn from the purpose which the Farewell 
Address serves in Winslow's "Hypocrisie Un- 
masked," there can be no question of the fact that 
he establishes his contention. It is in an argu- 
ment concerning the polity and not concerning 
the doctrine of the Leyden church that Winslow 
introduces his report of the Address. Dr. Dexter 
argues with his usual command of convincing 
logic, and the point is well taken. But suppose 
it is made. And suppose we grant the force of an 
argument, from the specific setting of the Address 
as it is reported to us, which "makes polity and 
not dogma the key-note of this still noble farewell. " 
Have we thereby proved that our presumptions 
are quite unwarranted by the facts, and that 
Robinson was a man unable to see farther in mat- 
ters of doctrine, however liberal he might have 
been in matters of polity? Not in the least. We 
cannot reach such a conclusion until we look at 
the place in his whole teaching which this idea of 
"more light" occupied. 


We must observe that the idea is not peculiar 
to Robinson among the Separatists, although in 
him it reaches its most frequent use and best illus- 
tration. Bradford says that " the light of y« word 
of God" was the means by which the zealous con- 
verts to the preaching of the faithful Puritan pas- 
tors were led to their final position as Separatists. 

The same idea lay embedded in the very cen- 
ter of the first simple covenants by virtue of 
which the Separatists came into organic union as 
churches. The covenant was supremely impor- 
tant with them. They did not insist upon any 
tests of creed. They were able to take doctrinal 
soundness for granted on the part of all those 
who sought their fellowship. The covenant was 
made the instrument by which they united. Its 
terms were perfectly clear. As the Lord's free 
people they joined themselves by a covenant 
with the Lord into a church of gospel fellowship, 
pledging themselves to walk in all God's ways, 
made known or to be made known unto them. 1 
The covenant of Henry Jacob's church, organized 
in 1616 in London, which probably represents 
Robinson's teaching with complete fidelity, was 
"to walk together in all God's ways and ordi- 
nances, according as he had already revealed, or 

^Bradford, "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 13. 


should further make them known to them." 1 
It is a pretty large assumption to claim that all 
these expressions of the possibility of more 
knowledge of divine truth to come in the future 
can apply only to matters of church order. In 
the words of the Farewell Address Robinson is 
simply recalling his hearers to the terms and 
to the anticipations of their own sacred cove- 
nants. It is exactly the sort of counsel that we 
expect from a pastor to a people united in such 
covenants as those just referred to. 

We turn now to certain definite statements from 
Robinson's own writings for a closer view of his 
general teaching. 

In his first controversy with Hall, he says: 

"We do freely, and with all thankfulness, ac- 
knowledge every good thing she [the Church of 
England] hath, and which ourselves have there 
received. . . . But what then? Should we still 
have continued in sin, that grace might have 
abounded? If God have caused a further truth, 
like a light in a dark place, to shine in our hearts, 
should we still have mingled that light with dark- 
ness, contrary to the Lord's own practice (Gen. 
i. 4) and express precept (2 Cor. vi. 14)? " 2 

In the controversy with Bernard, Robinson 

1 Walker, "Creeds and Platforms," p. 116. 
* Works, 3: 407. 


tells how he studied the arguments for the Sep- 
aration as based upon the Scriptures, "and by 
searching found much light of truth." He did 
not follow it immediately, however, because his 
respect for the opinions of men whom he deemed 
wiser than himself was so great that he almost 
"suffered the light of God to have been put out 
... by other men's darkness." 1 It is impos- 
sible to confine this illumination to doctrine as 
over against polity. Indeed, there was no such 
distinction possible in the mind of Robinson. We 
make the distinction between creed and polity 
very easily. John Robinson did not make that 
distinction. To him polity was a part of doctrine; 
the order of the true church was an object of faith. 
Polity was not something of incidental value; 
it was essential to the body of true Christian 
doctrine. God had revealed in his Testament a 
form for the Church, which was an essential part 
of the whole revelation of salvation. We have 
no right to make a distinction for Robinson 
which he never would have made for himself. 

Let us turn to a later controversy, represented 
by his book "Of Religious Communion." In it 
he says: 

" I profess myself always one of them, who still 

1 Works, 2:52. 


desire to learn further, or better, what the good 
will of God is. And I beseech the Lord from 
mine heart, that there may be in the men (to- 
wards whom I desire in all things lawful to enlarge 
myself) the like readiness of mind to forsake every 
evil way, and faithfully to embrace and walk in 
the truth they do, or may see, as by the mercy of 
God, there is in me; which as I trust it shall be 
mine, so do I wish it may be their comfort also in 
the day of the Lord Jesus." l 

We will take only one more illustration. This 
is from the last years of his life on earth: 

" We ought to be firmly persuaded in our hearts 
of the truth, and goodness of the religion which 
we profess in all things; yet as knowing ourselves 
to be men, whose property it is to err and to be 
deceived in many things; and accordingly both 
to converse with men in that modesty of mind, 
as always to desire to learn something better, or 
further, by them, if it may be; as also to beg at 
God's hands the pardon of our errors (Psa. xix. 
12) and aberrations, which may be, and are secret 
in us, and we not aware thereof ." 2 

Now, in the light of these expressions, we are 
bound to interpret the Farewell Address. With- 
out question Robinson's great concern always 
was with polity rather than with dogma. But 
to conclude that therefore he was a man with a 

1 Works, 3: 103. 
1 Ibid., 1:39. 


mind not open toward the truth as to theological 
doctrine is a wholly unwarranted position. We 
must consent to regard him as possessing a mind 
of more consistency than that. The man who 
said, "Whatsoever truth is in the world, it is 
from God, by what hand soever it be reached 
unto us" was not a lover of light in church polity 
and a sympathizer with the "animus of infalli- 
bility " in doctrine. Dr. Dexter 's interpretation 
of the Farewell Address is inadequate. Winslow 
used the Address for an apologetic purpose, and 
its meaning was undoubtedly limited for that 
occasion to that purpose. Dr. Dexter, provoked 
by a too hasty appropriation of Robinson by the 
liberals, has interpreted the Farewell Address 
in a case of special pleading for a polemic purpose. 
Neither Dr. Dexter nor Governor Winslow has 
set the Farewell into the body of Robinson's 
larger teaching. This we have endeavored to do. 
And we have found that "more light" does rep- 
resent the whole man, John Robinson. What posi- 
tion he would have held in doctrinal matters had 
he lived in another age we do not know. It would 
be folly to guess. But the temper of the great 
Congregationalist was that of a seeker after the 
light of truth in every department of its revela- 
tion. The tendency of his age directed his growth 


in the practical rather than the dogmatic line. 
But he was preeminently and consistently a man 
of open, hospitable spirit to all truth by whatever 
hand reached to him or through whatever light 

This always has been the conviction of the hearts 
of Congregationalists. Dr. Dexter 's interpreta* 
tion was maintained with all the power of his 
masterful mind, and it swayed the head by its 
logic against what the heart felt to be true. This 
examination of the matter warrants the expec- 
tation that the head and heart may consent in a 
judgment which restores Robinson to his rightful 
place in the history of the Congregational churches. 




It would be impossible to form a correct im- 
pression of John Robinson's personality from a 
study of his practical enterprises, his controver- 
sies and his friendships alone. There is another 
source from which it is a pleasant task to draw. 
In 1625 there were published two editions of a 
volume entitled, " Observations Divine and Moral, 
Collected out of the Holy Scriptures, Ancient and 
Modern Writers, both divine and human; as also 
out of the Great Volume of Men's Manners: tend- 
ing to the Furtherance of Knowledge and Virtue. 
By John Robinson." The same book was after- 
ward published, under different titles, in 1628, 
1638, 1642 and 1654. The last edition did not 
bear Robinson's name, but was put forth as " by a 
Student in Theologie." The edition used in Robin- 
son's collected works is that of 1628. It occupies 
pages 1 to 259 in the first volume, from which the 
citations in this chapter will be made. The title 
here is "New Essays, or Observations," etc. The 
work is best known as the "Essays." They repre- 



sent the ripe results of Robinson's careful obser- 
vations, summed up and reasoned upon during 
the last years of his life in Leyden. They are, 
therefore, the result of his mature thought in the 
very prime of his life. And, if we are to judge 
from the number of editions put out, this is alto- 
gether his most significant book in regard to its 
literary value. It can hardly be classed with his 
other writings. It is wholly different in purpose. 
It reveals its author in a new light. 

In the preface to the volume, Robinson gives 
us a clear view of that which he regarded as the 
sources of human knowledge. First of all came 
the Holy Scriptures; next, the great literature of 
all ages and the utterances of the great men of 
the time, which Robinson had read or heard and 
then "stored up as a precious treasure, " not only 
for his own good but also for the good of others; 
and, finally, he studied the "great volume of 
men's manners, " a wide acquaintance with which 
he felt that he had enjoyed during the days of his 

"Now this kind of study and meditation," he 
says, " hath been unto me full sweet and delight- 
ful, and that wherein I have often refreshed my 
soul and spirit, amidst many sad and sorrowful 
thoughts, unto which God hath called me. " 


The little preface to the volume thus gives us 
a view of Robinson's mind and temper which we 
do not obtain from the sterner and narrower 
method which he employed in his controversial 
writings. Here we see a really catholic mind 
laying hold of all the spiritual riches of literature 
and life, pondering them for his own joy and profit, 
and finally bringing out the results of his reflec- 
tion set in order in these "Observations." We 
will taste his fruit here and there. 

The contents of the volume show at once that 
Robinson has a method in the arrangement of 
his matter. He starts with "Man's knowledge 
of God," follows through the great attributes of 
God, to the religious life in its graces and activi- 
ties; then he takes up the complex subject of 
human living and treats it all from the standpoint 
of religion, examining such commonplace matters 
as "Discretion," "The Use and Abuse of Things," 
"Labour," "Society," "Friendship," "Health," 
"Zeal" and "Marriage." The whole is concluded 
with an essay on "Death." 

The fact that Robinson approaches his themes 
from the standpoint of religion does not mean 
that these essays are sections of sermons. Reli- 
gion, we shall find, is the great fact about John 
Robinson and the key to the understanding of 


his character. It is true here. He surveys life 
from the standpoint of its religious significance. 
The "Essays" are filled with keen observation, 
great practical insight, a true discrimination of 
values, and, with it all, a breadth, kindliness and 
earnestness of temper which must make every 
reader of this old book cherish a feeling of genuine 
admiration and real love for the man who wrote it. 

Let us take a look into the seventh essay, 
"Of Religion, and Differences and Disputations 
Thereabout. " John Robinson certainly had looked 
into "the great volume of men's manners" and 
into their lack of manners concerning this theme. 

Religion, which is natural to man, Robinson 
says, assumes its highest form of truth in the 
Christian system, which is given by supernatural 
revelation. In this, God has disclosed not only 
his nature, as a worthy object of worship, but also 
the manner in which that worship is to be carried 

This is an evidence of Robinson's principles of 
Separation, manifested at the very outset of his 
essay. There is a constant recurrence of this 
fact even in these papers. The writer is a Sepa- 
ratist. In the application of the principles which 
he held so dear, he allowed the largest play for 
the individual. He did not think that any cere- 


mony or ritual was of divine authority, although 
God has prescribed the manner of worship as well 
as commanded its exercise. For the performance 
of worship "the general rules of the Word, with 
common-sense and discretion are sufficient." 

The standard by which a man's religion is to 
be estimated is not his connection with any church. 

"A man hath, in truth, so much religion, as he 
hath between the Lord and himself in secret, and 
no more, what shows soever he makes before 
men." 1 

Robinson's demands from the religious man 
are intensely practical. He put the case in this 

"There are also religious hypocrites not a few, 
who, because of a certain zeal which they have 
for and in the duties of the first table, repute 
themselves highly in God's favour, though they 
be far from that innocency towards men, spe- 
cially from that goodness and love indeed, which 
the Lord hath inseparably joined with a true reli- 
gious disposition. Such persons vainly imagine 
God to be like unto the most great men, who, if 
their followers be obsequious to them in their 
persons, and zealous for them in the things, which 
more immediately concern their [the geat men's] 
honours and profits, do highly esteem of them; 
though their dealings with others, specially meaner 

1 Page 33. 


men, be far from honest or good. But God is 
not partial as men are; nor regards that church 
and chamber religion towards him, which is not 
accompanied, in the house and streets, with loving- 
kindness and mercy and all goodness towards 
men." 1 

This description of the false conception of God 
which leads a formalist to think that he can cheat 
him is only one of hundreds of similar homely 
illustrations of which the "Essays" are full. We 
cannot be wrong in concluding that the preacher 
who could use these plain illustrations would have 
power over a congregation made up of such men 
as composed the Leyden church. He speaks in 
this same essay of men who put on religion as 
they would put on their clothes, simply because 
to be destitute of a religion is regarded in some 
places as shameful. And thus with plain illus- 
trations from common life Robinson always en- 
forces his points. 

With another shrewd observation Robinson 
now turns to the matter of religious partisanship. 
When a man embraces a religion he generally 
sets himself very earnestly to advocate and ad- 
vance the special type of faith which he has 
embraced; and he often seeks also to combat all 

1 Pace 34. 



'Religion: and with what Hopes and 

Pollicics it hath beene framed, and is maintain 
ned in thefeuerdlQates ef theft weft erne 

f pans of the world* n 




Printed for Simon Waterfon dwel- 
ling in ^Paules Churchyard at the 

fignc of the Crovrae. V 

l6o^ N 


other forms than his own, "though oft without 
competent knowledge of one or other." Hence 
arises the tendency to partisanship ajid religious 

Robinson does not wholly deplore this. The 
essentially conservative temper of the man ap- 
pears in this statement: 

"Notwithstanding, we owe this honor to the 
particular courses of religion which we have once 
embraced, or wherein we have been brought up 
and received any good, that we leave it not lightly; 
nor further in any particular, than we needs must; 
nor at all in the things which God in it, in true 
and distinct consideration, hath blessed to our 
spiritual good. To be lightly moved in religion 
is childish weakness; but to be stiff without rea- 
son, manly obstinacy; and better to be a child in 
weakness, than a man in perverse obstinateness. " 1 

This passage lets us see at a glance how deep 
must have been the convictions of .Robinson be- 
fore he was induced to go out of the Church of 
England. His temper is truly conservative. But 
his conservatism is that of the child who loves its 
mother's arms and cleaves to her because it loves. 

Robinson's counsels in cases of religious con- 
troversy are consistent with the methods which 
we have found him using in all his discussions 
"Disputations in religion are sometimes neces- 

1 Page 36. 


sary but always dangerous; drawing the best 
spirits into the head from the heart, and leaving 
it empty of all, or too full of fleshly zeal and pas- 
sion, if extraordinary care be not taken still to 
supply and fill it anew with pious affections to- 
wards God and loving towards men." 

And so he urges that all who are compelled to 
engage in religious controversy remember how 
serious the contest is and how fearful the cost of 
an error; that they never make out the cause 
of an opponent to be worse than it really is; that 
they never give a sinister interpretation to his 
motives; that they be honest and preserve the 
approval of a good conscience in their debates. 

This gives us a glimpse of a man who was farthest 
removed from the narrow ranges of religious par- 
tisanship. And we understand why Robinson's 
own work has so much of rugged honesty, kindly 
tolerance and winning frankness in it. 

In this essay there is a bit of local color which 
shows us how aptly Robinson was able to choose 
an illustration. His own experience had been 
pretty closely concerned with the Merchant Ad- 
venturers, and his people understood all too well 
how willing any man was to risk nothing in the 
prospect of gaining very much. We can see the 
telling force as well as the merry jest, therefore, 


in a turn like this: Religious disputes are under- 
taken by many who are not the least prepared for 
them, either because they think it is a shame for 
them not to show others how much knowledge 
and zeal they have in religion, or else "because 
they make account in truth that they venture 
nothing but words in the voyage, and so can have 
no great loss. ,, It is not difficult to see the apt- 
ness and force of this illustration to the men who 
had been wrestling with the practical problems 
of the emigration to America and the Merchant 
Adventurers. In the following paragraph, also, 
Robinson uses an illustration which could not fail 
to be appreciated by his people: 

"I have known divers that have more lightly 
and licentiously changed their religion, and that 
in no small points, than a sober man would do the 
fashion of his coat; and who, in my conscience, 
if it might but have gained or saved them twelve 
pence, would have held their former religion still." * 

One of the most frequent criticisms of the Puri- 
tans, and of the colonists in Massachusetts, is 
that, however much they may have been zealous 
for religious toleration in England, when they 
were themselves masters they became equally in- 
tolerant of those who differed from them. One 

1 Page 38. 


of the most interesting paragraphs in the essay 
that we are now handling is concerned with this 
very point: 

" Men are for the most part minded for or against 
toleration of diversity of religions, according to the 
conformity which they themselves hold, or hold 
not, with the country or kingdom where they 
live. Protestants living in the countries of Papists 
commonly plead for toleration of religion; so do 
Papists that live where Protestants bear sway: 
though few of either, specially of the clergy, as 
they are called, would have the other tolerated, 
where the world goes on their side. . . . For con- 
clusion of this matter ... as there is no church- 
state and profession so truly Christian and good, 
in which too many may not be found carried in 
their persons with a spirit plainly antichristian : 
so there is hardly any sect so antichristian or 
evil otherwise in church profession, in which 
there are not divers, truly though weakly led, 
with the Spirit of Christ in their persons, and so 
true members of his mystical body. With whom 
to deal rigorously for some few aberrations of 
ignorance or infirmity, were more to please Christ's 
enemy than Christ." 1 

Back to such teaching as this for its sanction 
must be carried that fairer and friendlier attitude 
of the Plymouth Colony toward contrary opinion 
and practice in religious matters which distin- 

1 Page 42. 


guished them from other sections of Massachusetts. 
This spirit had been infused among them by Rob- 
inson, and they could not forget it in the years 
after his death. 

We have dwelt longest upon this essay because 
it illuminates so clearly the religious temper of its 
writer. But this is only one of the many sources 
from which clear light is thrown upon his person- 
ality. The little essay, "Of the Use and Abuse 
of Things," is of great value for its thinly-veiled 
content of autobiography. Our conception of 
Robinson as an austere man would be a natural 
inference, no doubt, if we were to judge him by 
his controversial or theological works alone. But 
he believed that all God's gifts were to be used. 

" ' God, ' saith the wise man, ' hath made every- 
thing beautiful in his time': and indeed every- 
thing is good for something: I mean everything 
that God has made." "A man hath that most 
and best whereof he hath the lawful use. And 
hereupon a follower of a great lord was wont to 
say that he had, in effect, as much as his lord, 
though he were owner of little or nothing, con- 
sidering how he had the use of his [lord's] gardens 
and galleries to walk in; heard his music with as 
many ears as he did; hunted with him in his parks, 
and ate and drank of the same that he did, though 
a little after him; and so for the most other delights 
which his lord enjoyed." 


But some things are specially liable to abuse. 

"And good things are abused commonly either 
when they are unmeasurably used ... or by 
applying them unaptly." "Neither doth the 
abuse of good things so take away or make for- 
feiture of the use as that the counsel of Lycurgus 
is to be followed, who would have the vines cut 
down because men were sometimes drunken with 
the grapes. Yet may the abuse of a thing be so 
common and notorious, and the use so small or 
needless, as better want the small use than be in 
continual danger of the great abuse of it." 1 

This particular essay furnishes the soundest 
philosophy for the entire matter of temperance 
in the use of everything that ministers to physical 
pleasure. Robinson shows how the best things 
in the world become the very worst when they 
are perverted in their right use, and are therefore 
to be used with the greatest caution; "otherwise 
we shall be liable to the curse of a greater than 
Aristippus, who wished a plague upon those wan- 
tons who, by abusing it, had defamed a certain 
sweet ointment wherein he took delight." "All 
evil stands in the abuse of the good," Robinson 
believed. The greatest abuse to which things are 
subjected is in their intemperate use, "as it is 
said of wine, that the first cup quenches thirst, 

1 Page 121. 


the second produces cheerfulness, the third, drunk- 
enness, and the fourth, madness." The best 
things in the world " we must not therefore super- 
stitiously disavow, or cease to account the best, 
as they are; but we must thereby be warned to use 
them the more warily, that we may enjoy their 
full goodness and not prejudice them by abuse." 

It is quite common to regard the Puritan as a 
person who relegated all the brightest and most 
cheerful influences in his environment to the class 
of things forbidden. The austerity, renunciation 
and limited enjoyments of these men have been 
defined as their most pronounced characteristics. 
Here, however, are breadth and joyousness of 
view and deep insight into the true meaning of 
life, which forbid classifying their author with the 
Puritan as he is commonly considered. The 
Essays lead us a step farther than this. They 
serve to correct the popular idea of the Puritan. 
Robinson was not a startling exception among 
the Puritans and the Separatists. These were 
men of broader sympathies and happier temper 
than they are generally regarded. Robinson's 
Essays set him securely among the men of good 
cheer, intense humanity, keen appreciation of the 
good things of this earthly life; he is modern to the 
core and also Puritan to the core. It is a libel to 


brand Puritanism as gloomy and cold. The essays 
of John Robinson repudiate that notion. 

Robinson drew his observations from two 
sources. The first and deepest of these is divine. 
God, who has spoken through the sacred Scrip- 
tures, is the source of all wisdom, and commands 
men to lay their ear close to his mouth that they 
may hear him speak. The second source of wis- 
dom is man himself. And neither source is per- 
fect without the other, although the knowledge 
of God must be accorded first place in order of 
importance. A man who claims to be a servant 
of God but does not know him is like a man who 
pretends to be the servant of some nobleman 
whom he never has seen, or within whose gates he 
never has entered. 

Robinson's thinking began and rounded itself 
out in the great fact of God. He did not try to 
define God. He realized that the infinite never 
could be comprehended by man, even if there were 
any medium through which it could be revealed. 
To Robinson, God was utterly past finding out, 
and he was dazzled by the infinite splendor more 
than the eye is dazzled when it attempts to gaze 
upon the sun at midday. But, although he 
could not, by searching, find God out, he found 
it quite possible and his happy privilege to let his 


soul loose in the unspeakable glory, and there, 
without another mood to spoil its rapture, it arose 
and sang. His heart was ravished with love of 
the Majesty divine, especially as he sought and 
found it unveiled in Jesus Christ. The fulness of 
everlasting joy he expected to find in the infinite 
Father and his fellowship. 

So Robinson's heart glowed with a joy in the 
sense of God's being and love and fatherly care, 
which makes him one with all mystic lovers of 
the invisible Father. The same spiritual passion 
burns in the heart of the Separatist as leaped into 
flame in the breast of St. Francis when he stretched 
out his hands toward the ineffable glory of the 
seraph to receive the impress of the stigmata. 
The Christian world, however sadly rent with 
schism, is yet one in the impulse of its devotion 
and the passion of its love. 

There is something deeply beautiful in the 
glimpse which we get into the heart of Robinson 
through his essay, "Of God's Love." He is 
like Paul in his spiritual exultation. He fairly 
shouts it forth. "He whom God loves, though 
he know it not, is a happy man: he that knows 
it knows himself to be happy." Robinson re- 
peats the experience of Paul from the record in 
the eighth chapter of the letter to the Romans; 


and we see the Leyden pastor and the great apos- 
tle to the Gentiles sharing the same rich experi- 
ence. Nothing — nor death, nor principalities, nor 
powers — could separate him from the love of God 
in Christ Jesus. Not even the fearfulness of sin 
clouded this splendid experience. 

Robinson makes God's severity with sin the 
inevitable outcome of divine love. For God must 
love that which is good; and that which is the 
highest good is God himself; therefore God must 
love himself supremely, and then all good things 
to which he has communicated his own goodness. 
Anything, therefore, which violates his holiness 
must come under his severest censure, because it 
is an offense against the love which he has for 
goodness. Although he loves all the works of his 
hand, when man, by his sin, offends that infinite 
love of the good, it is necessary that man should 
become miserable rather than that God should 
forget his own honor and glory. 

Robinson does not dwell in this realm of sterner 
reflection long. He comes back quickly to the 
gracious love of which he is as sure as he is cer- 
tain of the sun, although he does not climb into 
the heavens to see it shine. The greatest witness 
of the love of God to men is the fact that he does 
turn them from sin unto himself. Into this essay 


one might insert, without doing violence to its 
lofty tone, the words of Whittier, from his poem, 
"The Eternal Goodness": 

"And so beside the Silent Sea 
I wait the muffled oar; 
No harm from Him can come to me 
On ocean or on shore. 

"I know not where His islands lift 
Their fronded palms in air; 
I only know I cannot drift 
Beyond His love and care." 

The simplicity of Robinson's trust in God is 
evident from the manner in which he regards 
dependence upon the divine promises. We have 
a short essay, "Of God's Promises, " in which he 
defines his relation to the promises of the Father. 
Here, as in many another place in his writings, 
Robinson lets a sentence escape him which reveals 
to us the stress of exile and poverty in which 
he was obliged to spend his days. The Lord, he 
says, " provides very graciously for his poor serv- 
ants, who are ofttimes brought into that dis- 
tressed state both outward and inward as they 
have very little else save the promises of God 
wherewith to comfort themselves." But these 
promises Robinson tested and found true, even 
in the respect to material things. 


"I must therefore thus conclude with myself 
touching those matters — seeing 'God hath prom- 
ised all good things to them that love him' (Psa. 
xxxiv: 9): if this or that bodily good thing, good 
in itself, be indeed for my good, I shall receive '*, it 
from him in due time: and if I receive it not, 
it is a real testimony from him that indeed it is 
not good for me, how much soever I desire it." 

This reverent trust in the goodness of God 
marks Robinson as one of those "literal Chris- 
tians, " who dare to follow their Master even into 
the ranges of a perfect filial confidence. It takes 
a great soul to rise to the level of such practice. 
There are certain moods which none but a Chris- 
tian can understand. When St. Paul discloses his 
very heart in such words as " I am crucified with 
Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ 
liveth in me," he puts himself into the class of 
those whom only a man of similar experience can 
appreciate. The experience may be made the 
subject of analytical investigation by others, but 
it cannot be understood except by a mystic.- St. 
Francis of Assisi, "rapt in God," is an enigma 
to one who has never known anything of a trans- 
port as real and divine as his. John Robinson, 
practical and sagacious pastor and friend, opens 
his heart in this little essay so deeply that we see 
his kinship of soul with men of the type of Paul 


and Francis. To those who know the experience, 
he becomes a more real person by this glimpse 
into inner chambers. 

There is hardly a more significant or interesting 
section of all Robinson's writings, for the light 
that it throws upon the character of the man, than 
the short essay, "Of Created Goodness;" 1 for 
it shows by sharpest contrast the speculative 
reasoner and the man of helpful service. Here 
are the two sides of Robinson's character set 
over against each other in a few pages, the 
theologian and the practical philanthropist. 

Robinson cannot approach the matter of doing 
good, the "showing of a spring of water to him 
that is thirsty," or the gift of "even one loaf, 
yea a shive to him that is hungry," — he cannot 
come to the point of giving good, practical coun- 
sel about these things except through the avenue 
of a speculative discussion of the relation of all 
human or "created" goodness to the benevo- 
lence of God. God is the source of all goodness, 
and everything that is done to us that is good is 
only a blessing of God reached to us by the hand 
of a brother. 

But this background of divine sovereignty and 
the attempt to relate the beneficent action of the 

1 Page 17-23. 


human will to it, characteristic as it is of Robin- 
son's thought, yields very soon to a discourse 
on the manner in which good ought to be done, 
which is conducted so plainly and with such wise 
appreciation of the task of doing good, that we 
summarize and quote the points as follows: 

"First, We must do things in obedience to 
Gods commandments, and in honour of his name 
and gospel; and must ever have that end in our 
eye, as archers have their mark. 

"Secondly, That we do it at all times, as we 
have opportunity. . . . We must beware of that 
agueish goodness, which comes by fits only and 
when men are pleased : for so, they say, the devil 
is good. 

"Thirdly, We must do good readily. ... He 
that giveth, or doth other good, readily, giveth 
twice: he scarce once, or at all, that doth it 
slackly: he rather, in truth, suffers a good turn 
to be drawn from him that doeth it. Living 
springs send out streams of water: dead pits must 
have all that they afford drawn out with buckets. 

"Fourthly, According to our ability; knowing, 
that as our receivings are from God, greater or 
less, so much our accounts be for doing good. . . . 

"Fifthly, We must have respect to men's pres- 
ent wants; and not only consider what we can 
best spare but withal what they stand most need 
of. . . . 


"Sixthly, We must do good to all (Gal. vi. 10), 
knowing, that wheresoever a man is, there is a 
place for a good turn: but, more specially, to 
some according to the singular bond, natural, 
civil, or religious, wherewith God hath tied us 
together. . . . 

"Lastly, A good man, how gracious soever 
and ready to do good, 'guideth his affairs with 
discretion' (Psa. cxii. 5), not sowing his seed in 
barren ground, by bestowing favours without 
difference; for that is rather to throw away than 
to bestow a benefit. ,, 

The good sense and the keen insight of these 
counsels are at once evident. There is the con- 
ciseness of Poor Richard in them; there is the 
practical experience of the Christian pastor behind 
them; and before the essay closes, we are per- 
mitted to see the beating of that pastor's heart in 
a paragraph which rings true to the experiences 
of the Christian ministry to-day, as much as it 
did to the conditions of the Separatist church in 
Leyden during the first quarter of the seventeenth 

"When I consider what good the rich and 
mighty otherwise in the world might easily do if 
they had hearts answerable; and how little they 
do for the most part; it seems horrible unthank- 
fulness and iniquity in them, and matter of indig- 
nation against them: but then, on the other side, 


when I consider how little good I myself do, in 
my meanness, and others my like, to that which 
I should, and might do, if I did my utmost; I 
find reason to be most angry with myself and 
mine own unprofitableness, and to be glad and 
thankful that so much good is done by the other 

Thus the pastor's experience makes him ten- 
der, wise and fraternal, where the struggles of the 
theologian served to do little more than to stir 
the mist without showing the way. Years later 
Cotton Mather, the theologian, wrote his " Essays 
to do Good." Benjamin Franklin, who could 
have had little sympathy with Mather's theology, 
found it in his heart to write concerning the influ- 
ence of the slight volume upon him: 

" If I have been, as you seem to think, a useful 
citizen, the public owes all the advantage of it to 
that book." 1 

We are likely to forget Mather's "Essays" and 
their influence upon Franklin in the emphasis 
which we lay upon the theological work of their 
writer. The parallel is not without interest. 
These few pages in the midst of the many filled 
with controversies in doctrine and polity may 
have found, and doubtless did find, their Franklin 

1 A. P. Marvin, " The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, " p. 362. 


somewhere. At least the pages glow to-day with 
counsel that is both kindly and wise. 

There are indications everywhere in the Essays 
of Robinson's tendency to take large views of life 
and to consider all sides of a question. An in- 
stance of this catholic judgment is the rule he lays 
down according to which the value of a man's 
life and work is to be estimated. He says: 

"We are not, therefore, to measure a person's 
state by some one or few acts, done, as it were, 
by the way, and upon instance of some strong 
temptation, but according to the tenor and course 
of his life. Else what wise man should not be a 
fool also? Or what fool should not be a wise 

It was not a common canon of judgment in 
times of intense controversy and sharp use of per- 
sonal judgment; but Robinson held firmly to this 
principle, that no man is wholly good and no man 
wholly bad, so far as his actions make it possible 
to judge of his character. We must not forget 
this fact whenever we consider the severities of 
Robinson's doctrine of original sin and the bond- 
age of the spirit to evil. 

In the essay " Of Equability, and Perseverance 
in Well-doing" 1 Robinson pleads for the reason- 

1 Pages 24-31. 


ableness of a judicious, conservative attitude 
toward all religious questions. He is a true 
disciple of the middle way, whenever that does 
not involve the sacrifice of any principle. The 
instance of Eli is used by Robinson to illustrate 
his thought as follows: 

" It is dangerous in courses of religion and god- 
liness to fall forward by errors, preposterous zeal, 
or other misguidance: yet not so much so as to 
fall backward by an unfaithful heart. The for- 
mer may break his face thereby, and lose his com- 
fort in a great measure both with God and men: 
but the latter is in danger utterly to break the 
neck of his conscience, as old Eli brake his neck 
bodily by falling backward from his seat and died. 
Are there not many Eli's in all ages?" 

The progress of the soul, Robinson taught, can 
be secured only by resolute struggle. The sins 
and the dispositions toward evil which are bound 
up with our constitution make it necessary for us 
to fight if we are to gain ground. As he puts it in 
homely phrase, "our way to heaven is up a hill, 
and we drag a cart-load of our corruptions after 
us; which, except we keep going, will pull us back- 
ward ere we be aware." 1 

Robinson's sense of the authority of the Scrip- 
tures was vivid and compelling. He wrote con- 
cerning them as follows: 

1 Page 28. 


"The Scriptures are not only authentic in 
themselves, as having the Spirit of God for the 
author both of matter and manner and writing 
(2 Pet. i. 21) ; but do also, as they say, carry their 
authority in their mouths, binding both to cre- 
dence and obedience all whomsoever unto whom 
they come and by what means soever.' ' 

His doctrine of inspiration, so far as he formu- 
lates it in the Essays, is not so limited as the 
strictest interpretation of the foregoing might lead 
us to believe. He .says: 

"Neither all things which the prophets of God 
wrote were written by Divine inspiration, but some 
of them humanly, as their human affairs, common 
to them with other men, required: neither was 
all wherein they were divinely inspired brought 
into the public treasury of the church or made 
part of the canonical Scriptures which we call the 
Bible; no more than all which they spake was 
spoken by the Spirit; or all which they spake by 
the Spirit written (John xx. 30, 31; xxi. 25) :* but 
only so much as the Lord in wisdom and mercy 
thought requisite to guide the church in faith and 
obedience to the world's end; so as the Scriptures 
should neither be defective through brevity, nor 
burthensome by too great largeness and prolixity. " 

1 "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his dis- 
ciples, which are not written in this book ; but these are written, that ye 
might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God ; and that believing 
ye might have life through his name. " 

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if 
they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself 
could not contain the books that should be written. " 


We find ourselves brought constantly in contact 
with Robinson's spiritual temper in these Essays. 
One of the hardships which his sensitive spirit 
was compelled to endure was the reproach of a 
schismatic from the body of true Christians which 
he seemed doomed to bear. This was a trial of 
no slight character to him. We can almost hear 
him appeal from the judgments of men, which 
were at one against him in this regard, to the 
just judgment of God, before whom his own soul 
said he stood innocent, in a paragraph from the 
essay "Of Heresy and Schism." 1 

"And if, only an uncharitable heart make an 
uncharitable person before God, and a proud 
heart, a proud person; then he, who upon due 
examination and certain knowledge of his heart, 
finds and feels the same truly disposed to union 
with all Christians, so far as possibly he can see it 
lawful; though, through error or frailty, he may 
step aside into some by-path, that way; yet, hath 
that person a supersedeas from the Lord in his 
bosom, securing him from* being attached for a 
schismatical person and so found in the court of 
heaven; what blame soever he may bear from men 
upon earth, or correction from God, for his fail- 
ing, upon infirmity, therein." 

Here and there the Essays drag heavily. The 

1 Page 72. 


subjects are commonplace at times and the treat- 
ment of them conventional and prosaic. Now 
and then, however, Robinson throws a tremendous 
dash of vitality into a theme, and it is lifted at 
once from the low levels of academic treatment 
by the touch of life. The man who has suffered 
and fought speaks now and then, and scarcely 
ever with more splendid vitality of conviction than 
in the essay, "Of Truth and Falsehood.'' 1 It 
is a champion who says: 

"But our Lord Christ called himself truth, not 
custom: neither is falsehood, error or heresy con- 
vinced by novelty, but by truth. This truth is 
always the same whilst the God of truth is in 
heaven, what entertainment soever it find with 
men, upon earth: it is always praiseworthy, though 
no man praise it; and hath no reason, or just cause 
to be ashamed, though it often goes with a scratched 
face. They that fight against it are like the floods 
beating upon the strong rocks, which are so much 
the more miserably dashed in pieces, by how much 
they are the more violently carried. Though fire 
and sword assault it, yet will it not be killed, 
or die : and though by violence it be buried quick, 
yet will it rise again; and if not before, yet when 
all flesh shall rise again; and when truth, which 
was first, and before falsehood and error, shall be 
last, and abide for ever." 

1 Pages 72-76. 


There beats through such words as these the 
pulse of a brave and honest man, who conceives 
of his life as a gift to a cause. And back of all 
the rugged honesty of his controversies, which we 
have seen everywhere in evidence, lies the prin- 
ciple which he formulates in these words: 

" He that hath but a right philosophical spirit, 
and is but morally honest, would rather suffer 
many deaths than call a pin, a point, or speak 
the least thing against his understanding or per- 
suasion. " 

This is one reason why the writings of Robinson 
stand so far above the mass of the surviving liter- 
ature of the Separation. There is such honesty of 
conviction in them; such sensitiveness to the high 
claims of the truth abounds; such perfect willing- 
ness to repudiate old grounds when new positions 
become clear is here, that we are ready to give 
enthusiastic praise to John Robinson, the cham- 
pion of the truth. 

Robinson was a truth seeker before he was a 
truth defender. He believed in the effort of the 
reason to apprehend the truth. In an essay 
" Of Knowledge and Ignorance, " he says : 

"Papists call ignorance the mother of devotion; 
and so make reckoning . that if they, the multi- 
tude especially, be ignorant enough, they are de- 


vout enough. But the philosopher, though a 
heathen, who thought all sin to come of ignorance, 
shot nearer the mark than those left-handed 
Christians. ,,1 

Another essay, "Of Society and Friendship, ,, 
has so much of the modern social sense in it, and 
contains so strong a protest against the whole 
effort to attain holiness through isolation, that it 
might well come from the pen of a writer to-day. 
How near the courses of modern thinking this 
proposition runs: 

"God hath made man a sociable creature; and 
hath not only ordained several societies, in which 
persons are to unite themselves for their mutual 
welfare; but withal so dispensed his blessings as 
that no man is so barren but hath something 
wherewith to profit others; nor any so furnished 
but that he stands [in] need of others to supply 
his wants." 

Here, certainly, is a keen appreciation of the 
unity of the race, the mutual dependence of its 
members, and the necessity of society to the per- 
fection of the individual. 

In its bearing upon the Christian life, Robinson 
is no less clear concerning the validity of the prin- 

1 Page 79. 


"As God hath established fellowships and com- 
munities of men to procure their mutual good, 
and to fence them the better, on every side, against 
evil; so sin and wickedness being the greatest and 
only absolute evil, Christians are most bound 
by virtue of their association, to help and assist, 
within the bounds of the callings in which God 
hath set them, their brethren and associates against 

The duty of the Christian to serve society is 
therefore taught with the greatest force and clear- 
ness by Robinson, as over against any tendency 
to "hide in holes" from one's fellow men, "as 
melancholic monks do." 

On every page of this essay Robinson stands 
revealed to us as a loyal and tender friend. He 
bears witness to the joy he found in the fellow- 
ship of kindred spirits: 

"To him that knows the use of true friendship, 
no earthly thing is more delightful than the sweet 
society of wise and honest friends, whether for 
recreation after study or labor; or communication 
in a prosperous state ; or comfort in an afflicted. " 

He warns against letting the fact of an abuse 
of confidence in a single instance lead to a per- 
manent distrust of all men; he urges the wisdom 
of sharing our joys with our friends rather than 
always giving them a knowledge of our sorrows. 


He gives us such sententious bits of truth as this: 

"Wealth maketh many friends, but poverty 
trieth them." 

He lets us see again that temper and tendency 
of his own spirit which we have found impelling 
him toward a larger communion with his Christian 

"Lastly, when we are necessarily pressed [to 
break rather than untwine the cord of a former 
friendship] let us rather do it with sorrow than 
anger; and withal, have in us a disposition to re- 
assume our old course of kindness, if there appear 
cause afterwards; as the storks, when the winter 
is over, do affect their former nests." 

Robinson lays down a rule equally tolerant and 
gracious in the essay, "Of Suspicion," in which 
he says : 

"Howsoever things fall out, it is best to keep 
our bias always on the right side; and to incline 
still to a better, rather than to a worse opinion of 
men than they deserve." 1 

Such examples of true insight as these are scat- 
tered all through the Essays: 

" It is the first duty of a man to inform his con- 
science aright; and then to follow the direction 
that it gives." 2 

1 Page 181. 
* Page 105. 


" True zeal must be for God, and from God, and 
according to God: and having God both for begin- 
ning and end and rule of direction, it cannot but 
itself be good and godly " l 

Let us turn for a moment to another essay, of 
only three printed pages, on " Health and Physic. " 
It shows us a side of Robinson's character that 
we never would surmise from the other writings 
which we have already examined. Here are bits 
of keen observation, neat turns of thought and 
phrase, and a merry mood blended with an ear- 
nest, serious spirit. Good health he calls "this 
most sweet sauce of all other goods/' and the best 
way to preserve it is by a temperate life, begun 
early and continued steadfastly. The one point 
at which Robinson has wondered most is the 
unreasonable choice of physicians which persons 
make when they are in need of them. The per- 
verse tendency to consult quacks was prevalent 
then as now, if this observation by Robinson is 

"For though in all other courses men seek for 
[the counsel of] such as are most skilful; yet in 
this they are not only more ready to believe any 
that professeth himself a physician, than of any 
other faculty [i. e. profession]; but also choose 
rather to trust their bodies and lives in the hands 

1 Page 205. 


of ignorant empirics, men or women, than of the 
most expert and learned physicians that are. " 

Robinson proceeds to speculate upon the grounds 
of this observed fact, and, among other reasons to 
account for it, finds that the large fees charged 
by physicians of high standing tend to induce 
many to seek inexperienced quacks whose charges 
are less. And this gives Robinson the opportu- 
nity to offer this word of counsel to the regular 

" If they would descend to that rule of equity in 
other cases, a pennyworth for a penny, [they] 
would find that, lighter gains coming thicker, 
would make heavier purses." 

In the concluding paragraph of the essay, Rob- 
inson indulges in a piece of ancient wit at the 
expense of physicians, although he does not end 
it until he has turned, in his usually serious way, 
to point a moral. He says : 

"Physicians, saith one, and truly, have this ad- 
vantage over them of other professions, that the 
sun beholds their cures, and the earth covers their 
failings. They that die under their hands, or by 
their default, are past complaining of them: they 
that recover and survive, though sometimes by 
the benefit of nature alone, under God's provi- 
dence, will repute and report them the means of 
their recovery. Which consideration makes not 


the honest and conscionable the more secure, but 
the more careful of their account to be given to 
God, from whose eyes nothing is hid." * 

It is almost two hundred and fifty years since 
a new edition of this single volume has been put 
out. Even in the reprint among the author's col- 
lected works the Essays are seldom read. Per- 
haps it is useless to hope that they will ever claim 
attention. They are very vital papers, however. 
A few of them are as timely now as they were in 
the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Their 
author was a man of wide acquaintance with clas- 
sical literature; he saw clearly and deeply into 
life; he was the master at times of a clear and 
forceful style. The Essays are his most impor- 
tant literary work. 

1 Page 130. 




John Robinson turned back to Leyden from 
Delfshaven for a busy life of less than five years. 
It was a time of divided interests. He was still 
pastor of the church of the exiles; he was still pas- 
tor of the church of the remnant. His whole wish 
was to remain with those who needed him most, 
the aged and the weak in Leyden, until, by the 
gradual transfer of the Leyden majority his duty 
should lie in the New World and he might follow 
to resume it there. He deplored their lack of a 
preacher and said, in a letter to John Carver, that 
he should make this fact a spur to a reunion with 
them at the earliest possible moment. 

The company of emigrants to America did not 
consist entirely of members of Robinson's con- 
gregation in Leyden. There were many who joined 
them in England. The Leyden pastor, however, 
regarded himself as the pastor of the entire com- 
pany, for he sent them a letter in that capacity 
which was read to them before they sailed from 
Southampton. Bradford thought that the letter 


Was sufficiently important to warrant its insertion 
in his story, "Of Plimoth Plantation/' x The let- 
ter shows how much Robinson longed to be with 
the exiles in their undertaking. He says: 

" Loving Christian Friends, I do heartily and in 
the Lord salute you all, as being they with whom 
I am present in my best affection, and most ear- 
nest longings after you, though I be constrained 
for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say 
constrained God knowing how willingly, and much 
rather than otherwise, I would have borne my part 
with you in this first brunt, were I not by strong 
necessity held back for the present. Make account 
of me in the mean while, as of a man divided in 
myself with great pain, and as (natural bonds set 
aside) having my better part with you." 

This is characteristic of Robinson. His heroism 
in the return to Leyden, to take up his work again 
with the aged and feebler remnant as pastor and 
leader in practical enterprises, was greater than it 
would have been had he sailed in the Mayflower. 

The concluding paragraphs of the Southampton 
letter are very significant in their bearing upon 
the civil life of the exiles. One of these is as 
follows : 

" Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, 
using amongst yourselves civil government, and 

1 Pages 78-82. 


are not furnished with any persons of special emi- 
nency above the rest, to be chosen by you into 
office of government, let your wisdom and godli- 
ness appear, not only in choosing such persons as 
do entirely love and will promote the common 
good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor 
and obedience in their lawful administrations; 
not beholding in them the ordinariness [i. e. com- 
monplaceness or familiarity] of their persons, but 
God's ordinance for your good, not being like the 
foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat, 
than either the virtuous mind of the man or [the] 
glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know 
better things, and that the image of the Lord's 
power and authority which the magistrate beareth 
is honorable, in how mean [commonplace] persons 
soever. And this duty you both may the more 
willingly and ought the more conscionably [i. e. 
conscientiously] to perform, because you are at 
least for the present to have only them for your 
ordinary governors, which [whom] yourselves 
shall make choice of for that work." 

It is at once evident from this letter that Robin- 
son anticipated the formation of the exiles into 
a "civill body politick" on precisely those lines 
which were laid down in the compact which was 
signed in the cabin of the Mayflower at Province- 
town on November 11, or, according to our 
method of reckoning, November 21, 1620. He 
wrote his words of counsel to them for the pur- 


pose of strengthening what he must have himself 
taught them in Leyden. It is very wholesome 
counsel. It shows the true democracy which he 
safeguarded by insistence upon the divine char- 
acter of the power given to elected officers. This 
extract would serve a good purpose if read to-day 
at the beginning of every New England town 

The details of Robinson's relation to the Mer- 
chant Adventurers as that bore on the possibility 
of his removal to Plymouth are somewhat obscure. 
But the general outlines of the matter are quite 
clear. These points are plain: 

First, it was the intention of the Leyden church 
that the removal of the stronger and younger 
members should be preparatory to the final trans- 
fer of the entire membership, together, with the 
pastor, who had remained behind. This inten- 
tion was shared by the people and Robinson 

Second, it was for the highest spiritual welfare 
of the church that they should be united as quickly 
as possible, in order that the counsel and pastoral 
care of Robinson might be enjoyed by the church, 
and also that they might have the benefit of his 
strong practical wisdom. 

But there was a division of interests. As the 


Leyden-Plymouth church was the first Congre- 
gational church to illustrate the Separatist ideal 
clearly and persistently, so the Merchant Adven- 
turers and business managers of the Pilgrim move- 
ment were the prototype of the second organization, 
which still continues in many churches of this 
order, the ecclesiastical society. They were the 
persons to provide the money for the support 
of the spiritual activities of the church, and their 
paramount interest was not spiritual, but finan- 
cial and commercial. There were several consid- 
erations which weighed with them to induce 
them to oppose the bringing over of the Leyden 
remnant and the pastor. This remnant was 
composed of the older and weaker members of 
the church; in the development of the plans at 
Plymouth there was need of the strongest only. 
Then, too, the idea of the Separation was un- 
welcome to the men who had ventured money 
in the enterprise. However reasonable and 
catholic Robinson's views of the Separation 
might be, he was nevertheless one of its most 
pronounced defenders, and to men anxious chiefly 
for the success of a financial venture this was 
generally unwelcome and often repugnant. 

It must be remembered that the settlement of 
Plymouth had been made under no specific grant 


of freedom in religion. It was clearly enough 
the policy, not only of the officers of the Church 
of England, from whom such action was to be 
expected, but also of the crown, to secure the con- 
trol of New England for episcopacy. Therefore, 
although the permission to remove and settle was 
granted with readiness, there was great official 
unwillingness to allow any radical Puritan or 
avowed Separatist minister to go to Plymouth. 

These last years in Leyden were filled with the 
disappointments of vain attempts on Robinson's 
part to join his friends in Plymouth. A letter 
from Thomas Blossom, dated December 15, 1625, 
shows how keen the pastor's desire to go was. 
Blossom writes to the brethren at Plymouth: 

"Alas! you would fain have had him with you, 
and he would as fain have come to you; many let- 
ters and much speech hath been about his com- 
ing to you, but never any solid course proposed 
for his going; if the course propounded the last 
year had appeared to have been certain, he would 
have gone with two or three families. I know no 
man amongst us knew his mind better than I did, 
about those things; he was loath to leave the 
ch., yet I know also, that he would have accepted 
the worst conditions wh. in the largest extent of a 
good conscience could be taken, to have come to 
you." x 

1 See Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Ser. 1, Vol. 3, p. 41. Year 1794. 


Robinson himself wrote to Carver, " Assure your- 
self that my heart is with you, and that I will 
not foreslow my bodily coming at the first op- 
portunity." 1 By the close of the year 1623 
Robinson had become aware of the fact that the 
possibility of being able to go to America was very 
slight. He wrote to Brewster that he was obliged 
to call his transportation to America "desired, 
rather than hoped for." He saw that the only 
possible means of realizing the plan was that money 
should be sent from Plymouth for the purpose ; but, 
even if that were accomplished, he clearly fore- 
saw that the Adventurers would invent a reason 
to keep him in Holland. With his usual compre- 
hensive clearness he summed up the matter in 
this way: 

"We must dispose the adventurers into three 
parts; and of them some five or six (as I conceive) 
are absolutely bent for us above others. 2 Other 
five or six are our bitter, professed adversaries. 
The rest, being the body, I conceive to be honestly 
minded, and lovingly also toward us; yet such 
as have others, namely, the forward preachers, 
[i. e. the pronounced Puritans who did not go to 

1 "Of Plimoth Plantation," p. 78. 

* Among these was Sherley, who incurred the ill-will of the other adven- 
turers by favoring the removal. He wrote to Plymouth in 1627, "The 
sole cause why the greater part of the adventurers malign me was that I 
would not side with them against you and the coming over of the Ley- 
den people." See "New England s Memorial," p. 82, note. 


the extreme of Separation], nearer unto them 
than us, and whose course [cause], so far as there 
is any difference, they would advance rather 
than ours." 

The majority, therefore, was against the removal 
of the section of the church still remaining in Ley- 
den. So long as the smaller number continued 
in Holland, Robinson was in duty bound to stay 
with them. It is very likely that the mere cost 
of transferring himself and his family might have 
been borne out of his own resources; but the ques- 
tion of his duty was supreme, and he could not 
leave Leyden so long as he was needed as pastor 
of the weaker remnant. He saw clearly that a 
part of the opposition to his removal came from 
Puritan preachers themselves, who had an eye on 
the colony at Plymouth and did not wish their 
possible market to be marred by Robinson's 
presence there. He knew that there were men 
among the Adventurers who would maliciously 
stop him if he once started for America. There 
is no intense bitterness in Robinson's letter over 
this condition; it is profound sorrow, rather, 
coupled with a prayer for patience, that breathes 
through his words. 

The removal of the number who went to Ply- 
mouth necessarily lightened the load of Robin- 


son's cares, and gave him more time for literary 
and controversial work. He was in his prime, 
between forty-five and fifty years of age. His 
literary work was very significant during these 
five years. The subject-matter of these books 
has been considered elsewhere; it is interesting 
to notice the array of titles. In 1624 were pub- 
lished his "Defense of the Doctrine Propounded 
by the Synod at Dort" and "An Appeal on 
Truth's Behalf (concerning some Differences in 
the Church at Amsterdam) ." In 1625 appeared the 
first edition of the "Essays" and the edition 
in English of the "Apology. " The latter appeared 
again in 1644 with the addition of "An Appendix 
to M. Perkins, his six Principles of Christian Reli- 
gion/ ' which was very probably prepared after 
1620. He also wrote " A Treatise of the Law- 
fulness of Hearing of the Ministers in the Church 
of England," during the very last years of his life 
in Ley den. Hence there have remained some 
precious results from this trying experience of 
five years' hope deferred. If there had been no 
opposition to his removal to America, Robinson 
might have become so absorbed in the work of 
the Plymouth church that the "Essays" never 
would have been written, and the gracious treatise 
in behalf of wider fellowship never prepared. 


Sorrows came to Robinson's home during these 
five years. On February 7, 1621, there was a 
burial in St. Peter's Church. It was a child 
of John and Bridget Robinson, whose name we 
do not know. The records of October 15, in the 
same year, state that they still had six children, 
the oldest of whom bore the names of their 
parents, John and Bridget. Isaac and James, 
Mercy and Fear, were the others. These were 
characteristic names. In March, 1623, the family 
circle was broken again, although we do not know 
the name of this child whose body also was in- 
terred in St. Peter's Church. It is to be regretted 
that no record has been discovered thus far which 
enables us to know more of the details of Robin- 
son's home life. Those who knew him in his home 
have told us nothing, and no Boswell lived to pre- 
serve the commonplace sayings and deeds of the 
Leyden pastor. 

The first letter which Governor Bradford has 
preserved in his Letter Book announcing the 
death of Robinson, was from Roger White, Mrs. 
Robinson's brother, and bears the date "Leyden, 
April 28, Anno 1625." It was addressed to Brad- 
ford, and the paragraph in reference to Robinson's 
death is as follows: 

"These [letters] therefore are to give you to 


understand, that it hath pleased the Lord to take 
out of this veil of tears your and our loving 
and faithful pastor, and my dear brother, Mr. 
John Robinson, who was sick some eight days, 
beginning first to be sick on a Saturday morning, 
yet the next day, being the Lord's day, he taught 
us twice, and the week after grew every day 
weaker than other, yet felt no pain but weakness, 
all the time of his sickness: the physic he took 
wrought kindly, in man's judgment, yet he grew 
every day weaker than other, feeling little or 
no pain, yet sensible, till the very last. Who fell 
sick the twenty-second of February, and departed 
this life the first of March. He had a continual 
inward ague, which brought the [flux] but I thank 
the Lord, was free of the plague, so that all his 
friends could come freely to him. And if either 
prayers, tears, or means would have saved his life, 
he had not gone hence. But he having faithfully 
finished his course, and performed his work, which 
the Lord had appointed him here to perform; he 
now rests with the Lord, in eternal happiness. 
We wanting him and all church Governours, not 
having one at present that is a governing officer 
among us." * 

White speaks also of the great weakness of the 
Ley den remnant of the church since Robinson's 
death, and their yearning to be with the brethren 
in America. 

* Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Vol. 3, 1794, p. 40. 


The second letter was from Thomas Blossom 
to Bradford and Brewster, and bore the date 
"Leyden, December 15, Anno 1625." 

He speaks of the way in which the Lord has 
seemed to cross the success of those means which 
had been used to bring the separated sections of 
the church together, and especially that one, 

"which would have been so comfortable unto us 
in that course, both for wisdom of counsel as also 
for our singular help in our course of godliness; 
whom the Lord (as it were) took away even as 
fruit falleth before it was ripe; when neither 
length of days, nor infirmity of body did seem to 
call for his end. The Lord even then took him 
away, as it were in his. anger; whom if tears would 
have held, he had remained to this day. The loss 
of his ministry was very great unto me, for I ever 
counted myself happy in the enjoyment of it, 
notwithstanding all the crosses and losses, other- 
wise I sustained. Yet indeed the manner of his 
taking away hath more troubled me, as fearing 
the Lord's anger in it, that, as I said, in the ordi- 
nary course of things, might still have remained, 
as also, the singular service he might have yet 
done in the church of God. Alas! dear friends, 
our state and cause in religion by his death being 
wholly destitute of any that may defend our cause 
as it should against our adversaries/ ' 1 

The news of their pastor's death struck the 

1 Mass. Hist. Soo. Coll., Vol. 3, 1794, p. 41. 


church in Plymouth with the deepest sorrow. 
They thought how their enemies had plotted 
against the pastor's coming to them, and how 
"the Lord had appointed him a better place." 
They heard of the death of King James of Eng- 
land and of Prince Maurice, who, White wrote, 
"both departed this life since my brother Robin- 
son." Bradford copied the letter into his His- 
tory, adding, "Death makes no difference." So 
the close of the reign of King James came at about 
the time Robinson's earthly ministry ended, as 
it had begun about the year in which Robinson 
first decided for the Separation. The man on 
the throne in England and the man fighting for 
freedom in Scrooby and Holland lived each his 
own life; it is for the Maker of all men to say which 
one was the better, braver and more helpful. 

At this point we come face to face with one of 
the vexed questions in the story of Robinson's 
life. Writing concerning the character of the pas- 
tor, Winslow, in his "Brief Narration" says: 

"When God took him away from them and us 
by death, the University and ministers of the city 
accompanied him to his grave with all their accus- 
tomed solemnities, bewailing the great loss that 
not only that particular church had whereof he 
was pastor, but some of the chief of them sadly 
affirmed that all the churches of Christ sustained 


a loss by the death of that worthy instrument of 
the Gospel." 1 

This report comes from Winslow, who was not in 
Leyden in 1625, and must, therefore, have learned 
the details concerning the honor paid to Robin- 
son by ministers and members of the University 
through reports from the Leyden brethren. 

We also must bear in mind that there is no 
mention of this fact in the letters which either 
White or Blossom wrote as to Robinson's death, 
at least so far as these have been preserved for 
us. But those letters do not refer to the funeral 
in any way. When, therefore, Sumner uses this 
silence of the letters as an argument for the un- 
trustworthy character of the statement concern- 
ing the public funeral, 2 he is giving quite too 
much weight to those documents. He says that 
members of Robinson's congregation wrote letters 
to their former companions in Plymouth in which 
they "give minute particulars of his [Robinson's] 
death." But the letters of Blossom and White 
(and Sumner refers to no others) are provokingly 
indefinite concerning Robinson's death, and they 
have no mention whatever of the time, place or 
manner of his burial. 

1 See Young, "Chronicles," p. 392. 

2 See Sumner's "Memoirs," p. 54. 


A second argument used by Sumner to render 
the evidence of Winslow doubtful, is the fact that, 
at this time, the plague was raging in Leyden, and 
on this account all public funerals were suspended. 
Sumner reports that this was customary in Ley- 
den, even if the deceased had not died of the plague. 
For this statement he offers no authority. 

White, however, asserts distinctly that Robin- 
son was not afflicted with the plague, and that 
his friends were permitted freely to see him. If 
this was true, there is nothing unlikely in the state- 
ment that Robinson's funeral was attended by 
ministers and members of the University. 

Even Sumner's statement is not to be accepted 
too literally. Dr. Dexter made an examination 1 
of the facts which Sumner urges in support of his 
argument, and he found as a result of his inves- 
tigations that "the storm [of the plague] had 
passed before Robinson died; and, though the 
plague may still have been lingering in the city, 
it had at that time ceased 'raging' in Leyden." 

Another point to be borne in mind when we 
come to sift this matter of a public funeral, is that 
the words "accompanied him to his grave" do 
not refer to any long procession or stately cere- 
mony. The place of burial was only across the . 

1 See Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, January* 1872, pp. 184, 185. 


street from Robinson's house. This house was 
in immediate proximity to the University of 
which Robinson was a member and certainly well 

There is, therefore, no reason whatever, either 
on the one hand to infer a stately ceremony and 
great procession of professors and preachers, or, 
on the other, to think of an obscure and private 
funeral. Undoubtedly, members of the Univer- 
sity were present; doubtless, the service was con- 
ducted by some minister of a Reformed Church 
and the body of the Separatist pastor was laid 
to rest with dignity and honor in the grave that 
had been prepared for it under the floor of St. 
Peter's Church. 

For many years the location of Robinson's 
grave was unknown. Certainly it was a mistiake 
of Prince to state that he was buried in the chan- 
cel of a church which had been granted to his 
congregation by the government. We have seen 
that no such grant was made the Leyden brethren 
by the magistrates. 

The credit for locating the burial place belongs 
to George Sumner, who found in a small closet in 
St. Peter's Church at Leyden a number of dusty 
record books, one of which contains a list of burial 


fees of Leyden churches. Here, under the record 
of St. Peter's Church is found this: 

[1625] [florins] 

10 Mart. Open en huer van Jan Robens engels 

predekant 9 

(Opening and rent for John Robinson, English 

preacher, 9 florins) 1 

This record, therefore, informs us that the sum 
of nine florins was paid for opening the grave and 
renting it for a period of years. This payment 
was made six days after the interment. There 
is a record of this in the book of interments of 
the city as follows: 


4 Maart. Jan Roelends, Predicant van de Eng- 
elsche Gemeente, by Let Klockhuijs, — 
begraven in de Pieter's Kerk. 
(John Robinson, Preacher of the English congre- 
gation, by the Belfry, — buried in the Peter's 

Two points are of interest in this matter of 
the interment and rent. Sumner claimed that the 
sum, nine florins, was the lowest paid for any per- 
son whose burial is recorded. 2 This seemed to 
him to indicate a condition of considerable pov- 
erty, since only journeymen-weavers and persons 

1 Facsimile in Sumner's "Memoirs," opposite p. 71. 
• Ibid., p. 56. 


from the humblest walks of life paid such small 
sums for grave rent. Dr. Dexter, however, inves- 
tigated the matter very thoroughly, and positively 
contradicts these statements. He found from the 
very registers which Sumner consulted that, out 
of 253 records of burial rents in St. Peter's Church 
and the neighboring churchyard during the year 
1625, only seven were over nine florins, eighty 
paid nine florins, and 128 were as low as four florins. 
The average of all is a little over six florins. And 
it is a significant fact that the rent paid for the 
burial-place of Arminius in 1609 was only six 

Therefore, instead of being a burial in great 
poverty, Robinson's burial was quite in accord- 
ance with that position of dignity and influence 
which is assigned to him by writers like Winslow. 

Still another point on which we have been mis- 
informed is the matter of the removal of remains 
of bodies from graves in St. Peter's Church. Sum- 
ner stated that the sum paid for Robinson's burial 
was " only for the hire, for a few years, of a place 
immediately under the pavement in one of a large 
number of square pits containing space sufficient 
for four coffins. At the end of seven years, these 
bodies were all removed." 

The unpleasant idea, therefore, has come to be 


very general that, after a short interval, the mortal 
remains of Robinson were removed by the work- 
men of the church from the spot to which they 
had been consigned by the devoted and bereaved 
members of his remnant church. 

This statement of Sumner, however, was not 
confirmed by M. de Pecker, on whose authority 
Sumner makes it, when, in 1865, Dr. Dexter ques- 
tioned him concerning it. Sumner had made the 
statements which we have been quoting in his 
communication to the Massachusetts Historical 
Society in 1842. In 1871, Dr. Dexter investigated 
the subject again, and published another opinion 
on the authority of M. de Pecker, reinforced at 
this second investigation by other satisfactory 
authorities, that the bodies buried, as Robinson's 
was, in St. Peter's Church, "remained undisturbed 
for fifteen years, at the end of which time the pit 
was opened, (lie excavation was made deeper, so as 
to sink out of sight wJiatever remained , and then a 
new burial took place in the thus remade grave. " 

On Friday, July 24, 1891, a bronze tablet to 
the memory of Robinson was unveiled in Leyden. 
The house which occupies the ground on which 
Robinson's home stood, in Belfry Lane, had been 
appropriately marked twenty-six years before by 
a small inscription in these words: 


" On this spot lived, taught, and died John Rob- 
inson, 1611-1625." 

It seemed fitting that a still larger memorial 
should be erected to Robinson in Leyden. Action 
to this end was taken at a meeting of the Con- 
gregational churches in the United States, held 
in Detroit, Michigan, in 1877. A resolution was 
then adopted expressing a hearty approval of 
the plan to erect a memorial in Leyden "to 
the memory of John Robinson, whose name will 
ever head the list of the pastors of the Congrega- 
tional Churches of the United States." A com- 
mittee was appointed to take the matter in charge. 
Funds were secured by subscription in America. 
The committee decided upon a bronze tablet, to 
be affixed to the outside wall of St. Peter's Church, 
opposite Robinson's house. This wall contained 
a recess in the brick work about seven feet high 
and six feet wide in which a tablet would be shel- 
tered by a coping of stone. In this position the 
memorial would indicate appropriately the place 
of Robinson's burial and be near his house and 
the University. The tablet bears a figure of a 
ship in low relief, under which are the words, 
"The Mayflower, 1620." Underneath this is the 
inscription in severely plain Roman letters read- 
ing as follows: 




Pabtor of the English Church Worshiping oybr against this 
Spot, A.D. 1600-1625, whence at his Prompting went forth 


IN 1620. 

Buried under this House of Worship, 4 Mar. 1625 
Abt XLIX Years. 

In memoria aeterna erit Justus. 

Erected by the National Council of the Congregational 

Churches of the United States of America. 

A. D. 1891. 

The Dutch civil and ecclesiastical authorities 
met the proposition to erect the monument most 
heartily, and representatives of the city, the Uni- 
versity and of the Reformed Church spoke at the 
exercises of dedication. 1 They bore witness to 
the loving memory in which the Separatist pas- 
tor's name is still held in Holland, where it is 
forever linked with the ideals of religious liberty, 
fidelity to principle, toleration, and loyalty to 
revealed truth. This yet remains in Holland, as 
in America, an abiding influence. 

1 See " Proceedings at the Unveiling of the John Robinson Memorial 
Tablet in Leyden, Holland, July 24, 1891." Boston: Thomas Todd, 1891. 


A larger memorial to the life and character of 
Robinson is the church building erected in Gains- 
borough, the corner-stone of which was laid June 
29, 1896, by United States Ambassador Thomas 
F. Bayard. Toward the completion of the struc- 
ture the Congregational churches in America made 
a generous contribution in witness of their debt 
to Robinson. The building is fittingly placed in 
Gainsborough, not because this is surely the place 
of his birth, but because the city is so closely con- 
nected with the Separatist movement and it seems 
quite certain with Robinson himself. 

Before turning from the records of these last five 
years of Robinson's life, it is necessary to take up 
a question which arises concerning his relation to 
the Reformed Churches. There are certain docu- 
ments which demand consideration before an 
opinion can be rendered. 

The first of these is the testimony of Governor 
Edward Window concerning the practice of Leyden 
Church and its pastor, published in his "Hypoc- 
risie Unmasked," from which we have already 
quoted on pages 244-247. Winslow says : 

"I am earnestly requested to clear up another 
gross mistake which caused many, and still doth, 
to judge the harder of New England and the 
churches there l because (say they) the Church of 




.VORSHIP. 4 MAR.'N-i . 


■ 1l OF fRE. tDNt&CATfWt 



Plymouth, which went first from Leyden, were 
Schismatics, Brownists, rigid Separatists, &c, hav- 
ing Mr. Robinson for their pastor, who made 
and to the last professed separation from the 
other churches of Christ, &c. And the rest of 
the churches in New England, holding commun- 
ion with that church, are to be reputed such as 
they are.' 

"For answer to this aspersion, first, he that knew 
Mr. Robinson either by his doctrine daily taught, 
or hath read his l Apology/ published not long 
before his death, or knew the practice of that 
church of Christ under his government, or was 
acquainted with the -wholesome counsel he gave 
that part of the church which went for New Eng- 
land at their departure and afterward, might 
easily resolve the doubt and take off the asper- 

"For his doctrine, I living three years under his 
ministry, before we began the work of plantation 
in New England, Hwag_al ways against separat ion 
from any of the churches oTChrist^rofesmngjind . 
holding communion ijutlfwith the French and 
Dutch churches, yea, tendering itto the Scotch 
alsb 1 as I shall make appear more particularly anon; 
ever holding forth how wary persons ought to be in 
separating from a Church, and that till Christ the 
Lord departed wholly from it, man ought not to 
leave it, only to bear witness against the corrup- 
tion that was in it. 

" But if any object, he separated from the Church 
of England and wrote largely against it, but yet 


let me tell you he allowed hearing the godly minis- 
ters preach and pray in the public assemblies; yea, 
he allowed private communion 1 not only with them, 
but all that were faithful in Christ Jesus in the king- 
dom and elsewhere upon all occasions; yea, honored 
them for the power of godliness, above all other the 
t , / professors of religion in the world/' 2 
'^' " ' Tis true, I confess, he was more rigid in h is 

-> course and way at tirst than towar d his latter end : 
f orTiis study was peace aHcTunion, so tar as might 
agree with faith and a good conscience; and for 
schism and division, there was nothing in the world 
more hateful to him. But for the government of 
the Church of England, as it was in the Episcopal 
way, the Liturgy, and stinted prayers of the Church 
then, yea, the constitution of it as National, and 
so consequently the corrupt communion of the un- 
worthy with the worthy receivers of the Lord's 
Supper, these things were never approved of him, 
but witnessed against to his death, and are by the 
church over which he was, to this day." 

"The next thing I would have the reader take 
notice of is, that however the Church of Leyden 
differed in some particulars, [it] yet made no schism 
or separation from the Reformed Churches, but 
held communion with them occasionally. For we 
ever placed a large difference between those that 
grounded their practice upon the word of God, 
(though differing from us in the exposition or un- 

1 For the definition of private as distinct from public communion see 
pp. 170, 171. 

8 Robinson remained English to the core, honoring the piety of his 
fellow countrymen even when driven into Separation. 


derstanding of it) and those that hated such Re- 
formers and Reformation, and went on in anti- 
christian opposition to it and persecution of it, as 
the late Lord Bishops did, who would not in deed 
and truth (whatever their pretences were) that 
Christ should rule over them." 

" As for the Dutch, it was usual for our members 
that understood the language and lived in or occa- 
sionally came over to Leyden, to communicate 
with them, as one John Jenny, a brewer, long did, 
his wife and family, &c, and without any offence 
to the church." 

"And for the French churches, 1 that we held 
and do hold communion with them, take notice 
of our practice at Leyden, viz., that one Samuel 
Terry was received from the French church there 
into communion with us." 

"For the truth is, the Dutch and French 
churches, either of them being a people distinct 
from the world, and gathered into a holy commun- 
ion, and not national churches, — nay so far from 
it as I verily believe the sixth person is not of the 
church, — the difference is so small (if moderately 
pondered between them and us) as we dare not 
for the world deny communion with them." 2 

This statement by Winslow furnishes the back- 
ground for an estimate of the significance of two 
other documents which are concerned with Robin- 
son's relations to the Reformed Churches. 

1 These were Reformed churches, like the Dutch. 

a Young, " Chronicles," Boston, 1841, pp. 387-305. Also " Hypocrisie 
Unmasked." 1646, (copy in Boston Public Library), pp. P2-96. 


The first of these is the "Seven Articles which 
y« Church of Leyden sent to y« Counsell of Eng- 
land" in 1618, 1 to which reference has been made 
on page 232. The articles are brief and as follows: 

1. To ye confession of fayth published in y« 
name of y« Church of England & to every artikell 
theerof wee do w th y« reformed churches wheer 
wee live & also els where assent wholy. 

2. As wee do acknolidg y« docktryne of fayth 
theer tawght so do wee y e fruites and effeckts of 
ye same docktryne to ye begetting of saving fayth 
in thousands in ye land (conformistes & reformistes) 
as y e ar called w th whom also as w th our bretheren 
wee do desyer to keepe sperituall communion in 
peace and will pracktis in our parts all lawfull 

3. The King's Majesty wee acknolidg for Su- 
preame Governer in his Dominion in all causes and 
over all parsons [sic], and y none maye decklyne or 
apeale from his authority or judgment in any cause 
whatsoever, but y in all thinges obedience is dewe 
unto him, ether active, if ye thing commanded be 
not agaynst God's woord, or passive yf itt bee, 
except pardon can bee obtayned. 

4. Wee judg itt lawfull for his Majesty to apoynt 
bishops, civill overseers, or officers in awthoryty 
onder hime, in ye severall provinces, dioses, con- 
gregations or parrishes to oversee ye Churches and 
governe them civilly according to y e Lawes of ye 

1 N. V. Hist. Soc, " Collections," Series 2, Vol. Hi, Part i, pp. 293 302. 


Land, untto whom ye ar in all thinges to geve an 
account & by them to bee ordered according to 

5. The authoryty of ye present bishops in ye 
Land wee do acknolidg so far forth as y e same is 
indeed derived from his Majesty untto them and 
as ye proseed in his name, whom wee will also 
theerein honor in all things and hime in them. 

6. Wee beleeve y* no sinod, classes, convocation 
or assembly of Ecclesiasticall Officers hath any 
power or awthoryty att all but as y e same by ye 
Majcstraet geven unto them. 

7. Lastly, wee desyer to geve untto all Superiors 
dew honnor to preserve ye unity of y e sperritt 
w tb all y feare God, to have peace w th all men 
what in us lyeth & wheerein wee err to bee in- 
structed by any. Subscribed by 

John Robinson 


These articles were written for the express pur- 
pose of minimizing the differences between the Sep- 
aratists and the Reformed Churches in order that 
the English authorities might more readily grant 
the request of Leyden Church to remove to America. 
They must be interpreted in the light of Robin- 
son's "Apology/' issued a year later, especially 
chapters 11 and 12, " Of Civil Magistrates' ' and " Of 
the Church of England.'* 1 The "Articles" simply 

1 Worka,3:62-79. 


express in concise form propositions which are 
more fully elaborated in the "Apology." They 
show Robinson's growing agreement with the faith 
and practice of the Reformed Churches, but they 
do not contain the least suggestion that he ever 
considered the Separation unnecessary or person- 
ally stood ready to abandon it. The statements 
of the "Apology" are definite in this regard. Rob- 
inson held steadfastly that the constitution of the 
Church of England was such that he must " make a 
plain secession and separation from it." 1 He could 
not give the honor to it that was due "to the 
Church of Christ, rightly collected and consti- 
tuted." 2 The kindlier regard in which he came to 
hold the bishops of the Church of England for their 
personal Christian faith and character did not alter 
his judgment that the episcopate as defined by 
Robert Parker was a false and tyrannical institu- 
tion. 8 In short, the Separation from the Church 
of England was maintained to the last by Robin- 
son, however closely he might have been drawn 
toward fellowship with the Reformed churches. 

The last document to be considered is from the 
Amsterdam Scotch Presbyterian Church records, 

1 Works, 3:63. 
* Ibid., p. 64. 
8 Ibid., p. 69. 


discovered by Dr. Henry Martyn Dexter in 1872, a 
facsimile of which has been published. * It is a sin- 
gle folio sheet, written in two hands. The text in 
either case seems to correspond with the signature, 
so that we probably have here a document written 
and signed by the two men whose names it bears. 
The translation is as follows: 

I, the undersigned, declare by this that D. Rub- 
bensonus, minister of the English church in this 
place, which is called that of the Brownists, has 
spoken with me many times of the schism between 
their congregation and the congregation of the 
other English in this country; and that he has tes- 
tified many times that he was inclined to do his 
best to remove this schism between them and the 
others; also, that he did not intend to bring up his 
son as a minister of such a congregation, but much 
preferred to have his service employed in the Dutch 
congregations; furthermore, to this end he had 
begun, through the good offices of D. Telius and 
me, to move some good people in Middelburg that 
they might furnish some honest support for his 
son's studies for some years; further, he has delcared 
to me many times that, finding here so many diffi- 
culties in his congregation in the way of accom- 
plishing this, he had therefore resolved upon re- 
moving with a good part of his congregation to 
the West Indies, where he did not doubt that he 

1 " Testimonium to John Robinson by A. Walaeus. Photolithogra- 
phic facsimile with modern transcript and English translation." Boston 
Public Library * * G. 31. 83 A. 


could carry out this design. This has passed be- 
tween us in this way many times. 
Datum in Leyden 25 May, 1628. 

Antonius Walaeus, 

Professor of Sacred Theology. 

What has been testified here above on the 
union of both the English churches in this country, 
I, the undersigned, declare also to have heard from 
D. Robinson, late deceased. 
At Leyden, 26 May a. 1628. 

Festus Hommius, 

Coll. Theol. Regens. 

Concerning the circumstances under which this 
paper was prepared, its history, and the reason for 
its preservation, I am not able to gain any satis- 
factory information, and am thrown back entirely 
upon internal evidence as to its meaning. There 
is nothing to warrant any grave doubt as to the 
genuineness of the document. Its authors were 
members of the divinity faculty of Leyden Univer- 
sity. They were trustworthy men. They state 
that they enjoyed an intimate acquaintance with 
Robinson, which adds still further weight of evi- 
dence to our belief that he held a dignified and 
closely personal relationship to the University, as 
Winslow states that he did. 


Two points are noteworthy: 

1. What is meant by the other English congre- 
gation or churches "in this country "? Evidently 
it does not mean Leyden, for Walaeus describes 
Robinson as "minister of the English church in 
this place"; if he had meant congregations in Ley- 
den he would naturally have written " the congre- 
gation of the other English here," rather than "in 
this country" Hommius also uses " country " in- 
stead of "city." It would hardly seem to refer 
simply to the Separatist churches in Amsterdam, 
for the schism between them was not great enough 
to warrant the emphasis laid upon it here. 

Perhaps light may be thrown upon the matter 
from the "Apology," where Robinson says: "Our 
faith is not negative, as papists used to object to 
the evangelical churches; nor which consists in the 
condemning of others, and wiping their names out 
of the bead-roll of churches, but in the edifying of 
ourselves; neither require we of any of ours, in the 
confession of their faith, that they either renounce, 
or, in one word, contest with the Church of Eng- 
land, whatsoever the world clamours of us this way. 
Our faith is founded upon the writings of the proph- 
ets and apostles, in which no mention of the Church 
of England is made. We deem it our duty what 
is found in them to 'believe, with the heart to right- 


eousness, and to confess with the tongue to salva- 
tion.' Rom. x. 10." 1 

Before 1625 Robinson, while still holding to 
Separation, as we have just shown, had perceived 
that the remains of his church, with which he was 
compelled to stay in Holland, must be built up 
on a positive faith, to which the Separation was 
not essential as a saving doctrine. This ideal he 
evidently sought to realize, and was ready to wel- 
come members to his congregation from the body 
of all English-speaking Christians in Holland. 
There is certainly no other practical interpretation 
to give to these words from the "Apology," and 
this seems also to explain the purpose of Robinson 
attested to by the document under consideration. 
Robinson was not aiming at the organic union of 
any two English-speaking congregations, so much 
as the building up of a congregation on a positive 
basis, of which the Separation, although a part, 
was not an essential element. 

2. The removal to the West Indies referred to is 
open to question. Does it mean the general dis- 
cussion of the movement to America which took 
place in 1620? Or did Robinson, finding himself 
prevented from going to Plymouth, hope to go to 
another place in the New World with a congrega- 

1 Works, 3: 63. 


tion gathered on this broader basis? There is no 
record elsewhere of the latter purpose. White and 
Blossom did not know of it. Robinson always 
desired to go to Plymouth. The most reasonable 
interpretation of the document would make this 
refer to Robinson's persistent desire to go to Ply- 
mouth with his Leyden congregation. 

The fact that he was desirous of having his son 
educated for the ministry in the Reformed Church 
is not strange; it implies no abandonment of the 
Separation or repudiation of the twelfth chapter 
of the "Apology." Robinson was in closest sym- 
pathy with the Reformed Church; he finally saw 
no future for a Separatist church in Leyden, even 
in the light of his ideal for its broader and more 
positive structure; the Reformed Church seemed 
therefore the best place for his son to exercise his 

If we were to make a conjecture concerning the 
significance of the document which we have thus 
considered it would be this: when, after Robinson's 
death, members of his family and church desired to 
enter the fellowship of the Reformed churches, this 
testimonial from theological professors who knew 
him was drawn up, in order that their admission 
might be made easier and their heartier welcome 
assured. The testimonial itself is explained by 
the "Apology," with which it is consistent. 




There is no picture and no recorded description 
of Robinson. We have nothing from which to 
make any inference as to his personal appearance. 
We do know the character of his mind and heart 
and the sweetness and strength of his spirit, how- 
ever, and this is far more important. 

Naturally the first light in which we tend to 
regard him is as a controversialist and a defender 
of the doctrines of the Separation. To the major- 
ity, without doubt, the mention of Robinson's 
name suggests a stern, rigid defender of a faith. 

Therefore, we will consider Robinson briefly as 
he stands before us in the attitude of a controver- 
sialist. We must remember that he entered this 
field, not because he chose to do so in obedience 
to any native bent in disposition, but because he 
was forced to do so. His desire was for pastoral 
work and not for contention or controversy. 

When he once became a champion he was pro- 
nounced and persistent. He records the struggle 


through which he passed in entering the Separa- 
tion, and then confesses that he carried it to the 
bitter end. The spirit in which he carried on his 
battles, however, was irenic. As Winslow says, 

" His study was peace and union so far as might 
agree with faith and a good conscience; and for 
schism and division, there was nothing in the 
world more hateful to him." * 

There is abundant proof of this on every side 
when we come to his preserved writings. Perhaps 
there is not a better illustration of this than the 
preface to his "Lawfulness of Hearing," which 
has already been quoted on pages 179-182. 

Robinson was honest in the use of a conflicting 
argument. This is in marked contrast to the 
practice of many of those opposing him. One 
who reads widely in the literature of controversy 
soon learns to expect from any controversialist 
the claim that the adverse party has dealt unfairly 
with his arguments. Robinson occasionally makes 
this complaint, but expressly disavows any inten- 
tion to use such a method himself. He sought to 
state the positions of his antagonists, he says, 
"without any the least wrong (to my knowledge) 
unto him or his cause; as, having left out nothing 

1 "Hypocrisie Unmasked," p. 93, quoted in Dexter, "Congregational- 
ism as Seen" p. 406. 


in his writing, which might seem to bring advan- 
tage to his purpose." * We have found no cases 
in which Robinson's opponents claim that he has 
been dishonest in his treatment of their attitude. 

He was sometimes harsh in his invective, 2 but 
it was the custom and spirit of the time, and, 
as we have noticed elsewhere, when Robinson's 
terms are compared with those employed by the 
other Separatists, or, almost without exception, 
by any of the controversialists of the time, they 
are far less harsh. 

There is always one greatest fact about a man. 
If we grasp that fact, we have the secret of his 
strength and the clue to the interpretation of his 
character. The character of Robinson must be 
interpreted from the standpoint of religion. Reli- 
gion seemed to him the principal thing about a 
nation or about an individual. 3 It certainly was 
the principal fact about him. He tells his friends 
that the two realms in which he takes his chief 
delight are divinity and logic. 4 We may question 
the soundness of his logic, but never the con- 
sistency of his religion. He conceived religion 
on its personal side as that relationship which 

1 Works, 3:286. 
9 Ibid., 3: 285, 305. 
* Ibid., 1:32. 
♦Ibid., 3:330. 


the individual bears to his God. 1 The religious 
man, as Robinson regarded him, recognized 
always the relations of civil society. The obliga- 
tions of family and state are not dissolved by 
religion; they are sanctified by it. The sanction 
of good government and stable homes is religion. 
John Robinson never inclined in the least toward 
a hierarchy. He defended the state and the civil 
ruler, and taught that the same obedience was due 
the magistrate, whether he were a Christian or a 
pagan. No tendency such as that which resulted 
in the anarchy at Muenster found sanction in 
Robinson's teaching. 

We have taken a brief view of Robinson's the- 
ology in the consideration of the defense of the 
Dort creed. The religious life of Robinson is 
more winsome than his dogma. The sternness of 
his theology is more pronounced than the rigor 
of his personal religious life. That life gathers 
about a personal relationship between his own 
soul and God. It is the God of the Covenant 
who rules in the world that he has made. Rob- 
inson does not lay as great emphasis upon the 
personal, spiritual mastership of Jesus, or the 
discipleship of the Christian, as he does upon 
the covenant obligation of the individual soul to 

1 Works, 1 : 33. 


God. His religious life centered itself in God the 

His whole view of the world was colored by 
his personal religion. This is seen in his concep- 
tion of the physical order, which is the work of 
God's hands. "The artisan leaves his work, being 
once formed, to himself, " he says, "but God, by 
continual influx, preserves and orders both the 
being and motions of all creatures." 1 The man- 
ner in which Robinson seems to catch a glimpse 
of the great laws according to which the natural 
order is controlled is exceedingly interesting. The 
sun and moon and stars have such an influence 
upon the earth that they are able "to change, 
order, and dispose the air, earth and water." They 
are thus seen to be endowed with virtues "far 
above the most precious pearls, or any earthly 
quintessence." (Job 38: 31-33.) Their position 
produces the natural changes which we see in the 
air and water. At the same time it does not 
remove the personal activity of God from the 
physical world. It rather makes God's personal 
presence the more necessary, just as the complex 
variety of a clock's movements is a tribute to the 
wisdom and skill of the man who made the clock. 
In this way Robinson sought to do justice to the 

1 Works, 1:15. 


ordered course of the physical universe, and also 
save the doctrine of God's personal presence in it 
as its Creator and Governor. 

There is nothing in Robinson's writings to 
show that he found delight in the natural world 
for its own sake. The world seemed to him to 
manifest God; but there is nowhere any sign that 
he rejoiced, like Luther, in woods and flowers, 
sunny days and blue skies. The great German 
could feed his soul on the outlook over the beau- 
tiful Thuringian forest from the Wartburg, or 
take keen delight in an excursion from Witten- 
berg into the country Of this there is no evidence 
in Robinson. Not once does he express any re- 
joicing in the beauty of rural England or Holland. 

Robinson's conception of the social order is 
colored very often by his sense of the prevalence 
and awfulness of human sin. There is little true 
good in the world, he says: 

"In heaven is only rest without labor; in hell, 
restless pain and torment: and as sin makes the 
earth, which is between both, liker to hell, than 
heaven; so God for sin hath given to the sons of 
man sore travail to afflict them upon earth." 1 

Robinson thought of the awful punishments in- 
flicted upon sinners, and there seemed to be noth- 

1 Works, 1:114. 


ing fearful enough to warrant it; but when he 
looked around in daily life and saw the manner 
in which men lived in sheer contempt of God, it 
seemed to him as if no punishment could be severe 
enough for sin. 1 

Robinson is not a pessimist and purveyor of 
despair, however; there is another side to his 
view of life. All men are, he confesses, the chil- 
dren of wrath, and the world is lost in sin; but 
upon this dark background appears the full radi- 
ance of his ideal of human salvation. Robinson's 
hope and joy in the glorious thought of human 
redemption are simply unbounded. His soul 
leaps at the thought of the life of the saints of God 
on earth. This is a very heaven. The little com- 
munity of believers whom he served in the min- 
istry was filled with the " beauty of Zion and the 
glory of the Lord." To him this fact was an 
experimental comfort that far outweighed the de- 
pression which his sense of the world's sin might 
naturally have had upon him. 

Therefore Robinson was not a pessimist; his 
work was done in hopefulness, sweetness and 
good cheer. A weaker soul might have become a 
prophet of despair if he were compelled to reach 
his final conclusion. concerning the meaning of life 

1 Works, 1:214. 


as a whole from this initial consciousness of the 
fearful character of human sin. This serious, 
somber tendency in Robinson was offset by the 
sanity and hope of his dominant mood. He took 
the same view of himself that he took of the world. 

"When I consider/' he says, "how little good 
I myself do, in my meanness, and others my like, 
to that which I should, and might do, if I did 
my utmost, I find reason to be most angry at 
myself, and mine own unprofitableness. " 

Out of the self-rebuking conclusions of these peri- 
ods of introspection, he always comes with his 
soul "filled with spiritual joy." This joy grows 
out of his assurance of personal salvation. He 
breaks out at one time with this: 

"How much I am comforted in this very con- 
sideration, against my vile and corrupt nature, 
which, notwithstanding, I am persuaded the Lord 
will never so far suffer to rebel, as that it shall not 
be tamed and subdued by this strong hand of God, 
without which it might every day and hour so 
hazard my salvation." 1 

It is not always easy to appreciate such a tem- 
per as this. It is the manner in which Paul looked 
at his life. Sometimes with strong cryings the 
soul breaks forth, "0 wretched man that I am! 
who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" 

1 Works. 2: 227. 


Then the spirit asserts its dominant mood and 
shouts its song of victory, " I thank God through 
Jesus Christ my Lord." To one who does not 
appreciate the Christian experience, such a record 
of seeming conflict between despair and rejoicing 
seems inconsistent. Men who report the experi- 
ence are generally misjudged. Francis of Assisi 
is seen standing in the presence of his angry 
father, having renounced even the clothing that 
covered him, or wandering among the robbers 
on Mount Subasio and thrown by them into the 
snow. It all seems so hard, so bitter and so un- 
lovely! Francis singing for joy on Mount Subasio 
even while the robbers stripped him; Francis with 
his companions winning village after village in the 
Umbrian plain, by the very contagion of their joy, 
to a new life of hope and righteousness: — these 
facts are not regarded by him who has taken of- 
fense at renunciations and leper hospitals. These 
are the facts that interpret Francis of Assisi, how- 
ever. A more radiantly happy soul never exulted 
before God than the man of utter poverty and 

All the great exemplars and defenders of the 
Christian faith have had this deep distress and 
this supreme rapture. Individual temperament 
modifies the experience in its details; but the 


fundamental attitude toward sin and salvation 
is common to them all. The Separatist pastor 
never can be called cold, joyless or stern by 
those who know the real experience of his heart. 

This vivid conception of the meaning of personal 
salvation resulted in that passion for righteous- 
ness in which we must seek more and more for 
the real cause of the Separation. It has been 
common to hold that the Separation was grounded 
in a failure to comprehend the great law of devel- 
opment in the church, through a lack of historical 
knowledge and appreciation; but chiefly in the 
Calvinistic theology, which demanded a church 
made up of the elect. * That all these were reasons 
for the Separation is not to be denied. The idea 
of development is given scant recognition by Rob- 
inson; and he was a Calvinist of the Calvinists. 
But all these interpretations fail to take sufficient 
notice of the passion for righteousness which was 
the great practical motive in the work of men like 
him. The Separation was not a movement in- 
spired by any a priori idea of the church as the 
body of the elect; it was not undertaken or car- 
ried out with the supreme purpose of embodying 
a dogma in an institution. It was inspired by a 
zeal for righteousness; its genius was practical 

1 SeeWeingarten, "IndependentismusundQuaekerthum," pp. 12, 13. 


and not dogmatic. Robinson was a reformer 
first and an advocate and a theologian afterwards. 
So was Robert Browne. We must never lose this 
element from the story of the Separation. 

Robinson was not a headstrong and inconsid- 
erate champion of reform. In his " Essays" no 
less than in his controversies he stands before us 
as a man of wide and discriminating observation. 
His catholicity of outlook upon life saved him 
from the snare of bigotry and intolerance. Every 
reform is full of danger. Every reformer stands 
in peril of narrowness and of failure to compre- 
hend the wider relations of the cause that is dear 
to its champion; but here Robinson does not 
break down. 

The picture is briefly this : A young; enthusiastic 
Christian preacher and pastor, in the orders of 
the Church of England, yearned with all his soul 
to see the visible, practical results of his preach- 
ing and pastoral care in the changed lives and Chris- 
tian character of the people. He found himself 
hemmed in on every side by the theory and con- 
stitution of a state church. Accepting as he did 
the full, final authority of the Scriptures, and 
believing that a righteous life was the inevitable 
issue of regeneration in the soul, he sought the 
solution of his difficulty in the New Testament. 


There he found an organization of the church 
which was not only unlike but contrary to the 
parish unit and the episcopal authority of the 
Church of England. He •found the solution of 
his problem in the complete secession from the 
system of government with which he was con- 
nected. His Calvinistic theology helped him on 
to his decision; but the first impulse and the con- 
trolling motive in the entire movement were prac- 
tical and not doctrinal. 

Robinson was a man of wide reading and fairly 
profound learning. His "Essays" especially dis- 
close acquaintance with the great classical and 
church writers. These he does not treat in any 
critical way, nor does he seem to regard them for 
the intrinsic value of their style or thought. He 
uses them rather as reflecting and illustrating 
human life in its many aspects and interests. In 
this he resembles Martin Luther. 1 This width 
of reach with which Robinson cast his net, in 
drawing his observations "out of the great vol- 
ume of men's manners," is noteworthy. His lit- 
erary work was narrowed for the most part to the 
necessities of partisan debate; he ministered to a 
small community which was fighting for life under 
hard conditions. It would have been natural for 

1 See Kolde, "Martin Luther," 1: 41, 95. 


him to confine his study to the acquisition of mate- 
rial to strengthen his arguments and stay his soul 
in conflict. But he did not limit himself in this 
way. The larger human interest never was lost 
in the heat and narrowness of partisan conflict. 

As a matter of course he was preeminently a 
student of the Christian Scriptures. These he 
studied and used at first hand. He was familiar 
with the Septuagint, Vulgate, and English trans- 
lations of the Bible; he used commentaries and 
interpretations. But his appeal was always to 
the "Word" directly. 1 The critical temper was 
foreign to him. He has slight use for the Church 
Fathers, who seemed to him to have been respon- 
sible for introducing and defending a false order 
of the church. 

There is a merry side to the man, as we have 
noticed already from an examination of his "Es- 
says." Many a dreary page of painful polemic 
is lightened up by a jest or a bit of humor. His 
themes are serious and his style inclined to be 
severe. In the "Essays" and the " People's Plea" 
he is especially happy in illustrations. He com- 
pares an opponent who has striven to make a good 
appearance with a poor argument to "the stage- 
player, who, with too much wiping of his borrowed 

1 Works, 3: 297, 304, 311. 


beard, pulls it from his face, and so betrays his 
bare chin." 1 In another place, he discovers the 
inconsistency in the arguments of an opponent 
and says if only his antagonist had remembered 
the command not to yoke an ox and an ass to- 
gether he would not have argued so badly. 

In one of his essays he turns sharply against 
rich men who have little wisdom to save them. 

" A poor and plain person, seeing a Dives ruffle 
in silks and glitter in gold and silver, is half ready 
to worship him as a petty god many times; but 
after finds by his speech and other carriage, by 
which a fool and wise man are differenced, that 
if he had so done, he had but worshipped a golden 
calf." 2 

Thus Robinson, the theologian, reformer, con- 
troversialist, had a merrier side. He knew how to 
jest as well as how to preach or debate. It is this 
less known side of his personality that consti- 
tutes the greater charm of the man. He is not 
deficient on the friendly side of his character. 
Had he lived to-day he would have been a desira- 
ble travel-companion for a summer holiday; one 
would have been ready to cast a fly with him in 
the Maine waters during the ministerial vacation. 

One of the strongest impressions that Robinson 

1 Works, 1:185. 

2 Ibid., 1:125. 


makes upon us is that he is a growing, developing 
personality. From the first clear view which we 
gain of him until the very end of his life, it is pos- 
sible to follow him step by step in the course of 
his development. This fact gives his character 
its splendid human interest. He is a vital part of 
the movement of his time, making it and made 
by it. He answers our desire for a living per- 
sonality, advancing in mental grasp and positive 
achievement with the years. 

The strength of Robinson's personality is best 
apprehended by considering the impression which 
he made upon his contemporaries and, most of all, 
by recalling the history of his own congregation. 

William Bradford and William Brewster were 
strong men. Of this there can be no question. 
They set their mark deeply upon the subsequent 
life of New England. And for a man to hold their 
deep respect, loyal love and self-sacrificing fol- 
lowing, as Robinson did, meant great personal 
strength on the part of the pastor. 

Bradford's tribute to Robinson 1 is earnest and 
comprehensive of all his strong qualities; but the 
testimony concerning the impression which Rob- 
inson's personality produced is not confined sim- 
ply to the witness which men like Bradford bore. 

1 • 'Of Plimoth Plantation. " 24 ff . N. E. Memorial, 353. 


The whole history of the Leyden church is the 
larger and conspiring witness to the same fact. 
To be sure, such men as Bradford, Brewster, Cush- 
man, Carver and Thomas Fuller were members 
of the congregation, and that in itself gave it a 
character far higher than the Ancient London 
Church or Smyth's congregation ever had. It is 
useless to speculate upon the manner in which 
Johnson and Ainsworth might have prospered 
in the care of the Leyden congregation, or how 
far John Robinson might have succeeded in blend- 
ing and saving the discordant elements which made 
up the Ancient London Church. The fact is that 
the Leyden pastor made his congregation and the 
congregation made its pastor. It is one of those 
rare reactions of personal influence which it is a 
joy to contemplate and a pleasure to record. The 
situation that confronts us in history is simply 
this: in the development of a radical movement 
involving not only a theory of church govern- 
ment, but the founding of an institution to 
express the ideal, every effort to achieve the 
practical realization had gone to pieces, and the 
ideal itself had become discredited, owing to 
the lack of a dominant personality strong enough 
and far-sighted enough to master and promote 
the practical enterprise. At last a man emerged, 


able, not only essentially to modify the ideal and 
to commend it, even to its former critics, by its 
sweetness and sanity, but also to organize an 
institution which realized the ideal with almost 
perfect success. To achieve this required a great 
personality. It required also great personalities 
upon which to act. To be a leader and molder 
of strong men, however, requires a stronger man. 
The master of the ideal, the molding force, upon 
Bradford and Brewster, at least during the Ley- 
den sojourn, the shaper of the first successful Sep- 
aratist congregation, and therefore the virtual 
founder of Congregationalism, was John Robinson, 
the Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers. 


Act of Supremacy, 11 
Act of Uniformity, 11 
Ainsworth, Henry, Inclined toward Democratic Organization 

of the Church in Amsterdam, 191 

Controversy with Johnson, 193 
Ames, William, Sketch of, 166, 167 
Amsterdam, Moral and Religious Conditions in, 88 
Anabaptism, Repudiated by Robinson, 219, 220 
Ancient London Church, organized, 21; in Amsterdam, 89; 

relations to Leyden Church in the Johnson-Ainsworth 

quarrel, 193-198 
Anglican Church, a true Church according to Canons of 1603-4, 

25; its apostolic character denied by Robinson, 113 
Anglican Party Denned, 12 
"Apologia" or "Apology, ".occasion of writing, 209; its spirit, 

Archbishops, 27 

Aristocracy, an element in Barrowism, 20 
Arminius, James, 157 
Atonement, Robinson's Doctrine of the, 155, 156 

Baptism, Robinson's teaching concerning, 220, 221 

Barrow and Barrowism, 19, 21 

Bastwick's Testimony Concerning Robinson, 72 

Baynes, Paul, Robinson hears his lecture, 73 

Benefice, Plurality of, 35, 36 

Bernard, Rev. Richard, a Puritan preacher, 69; formed a 

Separatist church, 82; wrote "Christian Advertisements/* 


358 INDEX 

Bishops, 27 

Blossom, Thomas, letter regarding Robinson's desire to go to 
Plymouth, 308; announced Robinson's death, 314 

Bradford, William, prominent member of Scrooby congrega- 
tion, 50; described leading members of Scrooby Church, 
94, 95; reported Robinson's dispute with Episcopius, 158 

Brewer, Thomas, arrested in Leyden and taken to England, 
215, 216 

Brewster, William, practical religious activity in England, 43; 
postmaster at Scrooby, 47; service to Scrooby Church, 
50, 51; ruling elder in Leyden, 205; printed Calderwood's 
"Perth Assembly/ 1 215; with Robinson originated plan 
of removal to America, 230; signed the "Seven Articles," 
232, 329; sent to England by Leyden Church in 1619, 234. 

Browne, Robert, Life and Teaching, 16-18 

Calderwood, David, invited to partake of communion by Rob- 
inson, 185; friend of Robinson, 222 

Canons of 1603-4, 24-38 

Carleton, Sir Dudley, found obnoxious book printed by Brew- 
ster, 215 

Cartwright, Thomas, teaching, 13, 14 

Carver, John, deacon in Leyden, 206; sent to England by Ley- 
den Church in 1617, 231 

Chadderton, Laurence; Robinson heard him lecture, 72 

Church, — in Robert Browne's teaching, 17; denned by Rob- 
inson, 120-122; not to consist of more members than can 
meet together in one place, 210; a national, attacked by 
Robinson, 119; gathered into covenant and organized 
with officers; the difference, 96-98 

Churches, — their use by Separatists, 208, 209 

Clyfton, Richard, — the Separatist, 49, 50; office in Scrooby 
Church, 91, 92; dismissed to Ancient London Church, 90 

Clyfton, Zachary, — important entry in his family Bible, 87 

Communion, — extent of, between Christians, according to 

INDEX 359 

William Ames, 168; Robinson's discussion of, 165-185; 
conditioned by faith and church order, 169; Robinson's 
treatment of theme in " Essays," 297 

Congregations of Separatists in London and the North of Eng- 
land, — no intimate connection between, 41 

"Connivance at Sin," — Robinson's theory regarding, 116 

Convocations of 1603-4, 24 

Covenant, in the church, 121, 122 

Cushman, Robert, — sent to England by Leyden Church in 
1617, 231; in 1619, 234 

Decrees, God's, — discussed by Robinson, 152 

" Defence of Doctrine Propounded by the Synod at Dort," — 
why written by Robinson, 160, 161 

Democracy, — in relation to aristocracy and monarchy in the 
church, 124, 125; term avoided by Robinson while its con- 
tent preserved, 201, 202 

Dexter, Henry M., — discussion of the "Farewell Address," 
251-257 ; investigation of Sumner's claims regarding Rob- 
inson's death and burial, 317; found Walaeus-Hommius 
document, 331 

Discipline, Church, — how administered in Le}'den, 200, 201 

Durie, Rev. Robert, — pastor in Leyden, 135; admitted to 
Leyden University, 144 

Dutch Churches, — their theology, 157 

Edward VI of England, — religious changes during his reign, 

Elders, — their qualifications and authority, 198, 199; their 

place in the congregation, 123-125; in Barrow's teaching, 

Elizabeth, Queen, — religious changes during her reign, 10-22 
Emigration from Leyden to America, — reasons for, 227-229; 

decided upon, 237 
England, — peculiar seed ground for Protestant Reformation, 5 
Episcopius, Simon, — Robinson's debate with, 157-161 

360 INDEX 

Episcopate, — in teaching of Cartwright, 13; of Whitgift, Ban- 
croft, Bilson, 14 

"Essays/' Robinson's, — their value, 300 

Euring, William, — copies out sermon by Yates for Robinson, 

Exiles, English, — on the continent under Queen Mary, 9 

"Farewell Address," the so-called, — reported by Edward 
Winslow, 243-247; occasion of its delivery, 247-249; 
Winslow's report questioned by George Sumner, 249; 
internal evidence as to its genuineness, 250; Henry Mar- 
tyn Dexter's interpretation, 251-257; discussion of this 
in detail, 253-257 ; consistency of this "Address" with 
the body of Robinson's teaching, 258-263 
Flight under Persecution, Robinson's discussion of, 217, 218 
Fuller, Samuel, — chosen deacon in Leyden, 206 

Gainsborough, — description of, 57, 58; Separatist congregation 
in, 44-46; memorial church to Robinson erected there, 324 
God, — His sovereignty and providence, 152 
Gomarius, Francis, opponent of Arminius, 157 
Gordon, Rev. Alexander, — his article on Robinson in "Dic- 
tionary of National Biography," 159 
Greenwood, John, 19 

Hall, Joseph, — wrote against Robinson, 110 

Hampton Court Conference, 23 

Helwisse, Thomas, Robinson's controversies with, 150, 217-221 

Henry VIII of England, — religious changes during his reign, 

Holland, — why sought by Separatists, 83 
Hommius, Festus, — his testimony concerning Robinson, 


James I of England, — received Millenary petition, 22; called 

INDEX 361 

Hampton Court Conference, 23; refused to grant petition 
of Leyden Church for religious freedom in America, 233 

Jegon, John, 62, 69 

Jepson, William, — joint purchaser with Robinson of Leyden 
house, 137 

Johnson, Francis, — pastor of the Ancient London Church, 21 ; 
went to America, 229; inclined toward aristocratic organ- 
ization of the church, 190-192 

" Lawfulness of Hearing" published, 178; the preface quoted, 

Lawne, Christopher, — claimed as author of "The Profane 

Schisme," 167 
Leyden Church, — removal from Amsterdam, 133, 134; not 

granted place of worship by authorities in Leyden,135,136 ; 

their form of worship, 207; described by Winslow, 223; 

described by Bradford, 140-143; determined to move to 

America, 231; reasons for this determination, 227-229; 

petitioned Dutch New Netherland Co., 235; sent "Seven 

Articles" to England, 328 
Lord's Supper, — in canons of 1603-4, 36 

Mary, Queen, — religious changes during her reign, 8, 9 
Merchant Adventurers, — their relation to Robinson, 306-310 
Millenary Petition, 22, 23 
Ministers, Anglican, — sphere of their labors defined by canons, 

Murton, John, author of "A True Description," 160 

Necessity and Compulsion, — how different, 153 
Norwich, Religious conditions in, 68, 69 

Officers of the Church, how many, 126, 127 
"Of Religious Communion," published in 1614, 150, 169; its- 
influence in Amsterdam, 173-175 

362 INDEX 

Order of the Church, — an object of faith, 117, 118 
Orders in the Church of England, Candidates for, 28, 29 

Paget, John, — pastor in Amsterdam, 88; published "An 
Arrow," 173, 174 

Parish, in the Church of England, 27; attacked by Robinson, 

Perkins, William, influenced Robinson, 64 

Polity, Church, an object of faith, 117, 118 

Prayer Book,— of Edward VI, 7; in Canons of 1603-4, 37 

Presbytery, its functions treated by Robinson, 198, 199 

Printing, Difficulty of, in England, 103, 104 

Puritanism, Beginnings of, in England, 11; defined by Cart- 
wright, 13, 14 

Puritans, become a party, 12; oppose Separatists, 81, 82; many 
kept from becoming Separatists by hardship, 228 

Reformation, the Protestant, — its course in England sketched, 

Reformation of Abuses impossible in Church of England, the 
ground of the Separation, 114-117 

Reformed Churches, Robinson's relation to, 207, 208 

Robinson, John, no contemporary biography of, 55; personal 
elements in his preserved writings, 55; date and place of 
birth, 56; ancestry, 58; life in Cambridge, 60-62; religious 
experience called conversion, 63, 64; took orders in the 
Church of England, 65, 66, 93; work in Norwich, 67-72; 
troubles with ecclesiastical authorities, 69; sought to free 
himself from censure of the Church of England, 70; 
sued unsuccessfully for appointment to a chaplaincy, 
70, 71; went to Cambridge from Norwich, 71-74; 
reached Gainsborough, 74; subjective history of his 
decision for Separation, 74-78; chosen pastor of 
Scrooby Church in Amsterdam, 93, 94; ordained pas- 
tor of Scrooby Church, 96; recognized and defined 

INDEX 363 

tendencies to disruption in Separation, 00, 100; wrote 
against William Ames in Amsterdam, 102, 103, 110, 
167; a defender of the Separation, 100; the spirit of his 
earliest controversies, 112; attacked royal supremacy, 
113; denied apostolic character of the Church of England, 
114; defined the grounds of the Separation, 115-117; ac- 
cepted Thirty-nine Articles, 117, 150; refused at first to 
join John Smyth on the ground of disagreement concern- 
ing rigid Separation, 128; committed himself to rigid Sep- 
aration, 128, 120, 165; reasons for change, 120, 130; 
bought house in Leyden, 136-140; not a communist, 130, 
140; names of family, 143, 312; admitted to Leyden Uni- 
versity, defended Calvinistic creed of Dort, 140-161 ; his 
dogmatic views inflexible, 151; subtle distinctions in his 
reasoning, 155; disputed publicly with Episcopius, 157- 
161; his use of Scripture, 172; Paget's testimony concern- 
ing his fellowship in Leyden, 174, 175; wrote "Manu- 
mission" to Ames, 1615, 175, 176; wrote letters to church- 
es in London and Amsterdam, 176; taught that Separatists 
might attend the services in the Church of England, 177; 
his tolerant spirit shown in preface to "Lawfulness of 
Hearing," 170-183; answered request of thirty members 
of the Ancient London Church for counsel, 103, 104; went 
to Amsterdam after deposition of Ainsworth from office, 

104, 105; futile effort to reconcile factions in Amsterdam, 

105, 107; proposed "middle way" to Ancient London 
Church, 106; work as pastor in Leyden, 206, 221; relation 
to Reformed Churches in Leyden, 207, 208; controversy 
with Yates, 212-214; went to Rotterdam with Brewer, 
216; controversy with Helwisse regarding baptism and 
flight from persecution, 217, 218; his missionary motive, 
228; originated with Brewster the plan for emigration to 
America, 230; a prime mover in all negotiations to this 
end, 231; drew up articles defining relation of Leyden 
Church to other churches, 232; published "Apologia," 


1619 and 1625, 209, 311 ; persistent in the emigration plan, 
234; preached to people before departure for America, 
238; went with emigrating members to Delfshaven, 238; 
took leave of them, 239; examination of the so-called 
"Farewell Address/ ' 243-263; preached two sermons 
previous to departure of emigrants to America, 248; 
"Essays" published, 1625, 267; their value as interpreting 
his character, 268; his essay on "Religion/' 270-276; his 
essay on "The Use and Abuse of Things/' 277-279; his 
idea of God, 280-284; compared with St. Francis of Assisi, 
284, 347; his essay "Of Created Goodness," and practical 
counsels concerning conduct, 285-288; his regard for the 
authority of Scripture, 291; his essay "Of Truth," 293, 
294; his essay "Of Society," 295-297; his essay "Of 
Health and Physic," 298-300; life in Leyden, 1620-1625, 
303-323; regarded as pastor of Plymouth Church, 303; 
wrote letter to emigrants, 304; intended to go to Ply- 
mouth, 306; removal opposed by Merchant Adventurers, 
309; wrote and published several books, 1624, 1625, 311; 
buried two children in Leyden, 312; his death, 313; funeral 
in Leyden, 315-318; burial place, 318-320; memorial tab- 
lets in Leyden, 321-323; memorial church erected in 
Gainsborough, 324; his relation to the Reformed Churches 
in Holland examined, 324-335; testimony of Walaeus 
and Hommius concerning this relationship, 331-335; as a 
controversialist, 289, 339-341; his religion, 341-343; his 
love of nature, 344; an optimist, 345; his passion for right- 
eousness, 347-350; his learning, 350; his impression upon 
his church, 353; estimate of his place in history, 354, 355; 
Professor Williston Walker's estimate, v 
oyal Supremacy, defined, 25; attacked by Robinson, 113 

indys, Sir Edwin, — aided Leyden delegates in England, 232 
irooby, identified by Hunter, 42; general character of country 
around, 43 

INDEX 365 

Scrooby Church, — Separatist congregation gathered there, 
46-51; became object of ecclesiastical persecution, 81; 
prevented from emigrating to Holland, 83-87; finally 
reached Amsterdam, 88; maintained independent organi- 
zation there, 90; effected organization, 91-96; conditions 
in Amsterdam uncongenial, 98,99, 190; petitioned Leyden 
authorities for permission to settle there, 101; moved to 
Leyden, 105 (See Leyden Church) 

Separation, — in Browne's teaching, 16; in Barrow's teaching, 
20; in Canons of 1603-4, 26; its grounds defined by Rob- 
inson, 115-117; its extent defined by Robinson, 127-130, 
171; its extent in Amsterdam, 165 

Separatists, in Middelberg, 18 

"Seven Articles" of Leyden Church, 328-330 

Smyth, John, — his connection with Separatists in Gains- 
borough, 45, 46; his congregation in Amsterdam, 89, 90; 
opposed to Robinson, 93; formed church on Baptist prin- 
ciples together with Helwisse, 219 

State and Church, — in Cartwright's teaching, 13; in Browne's 
teaching, 17 

Studley, Daniel, — wrote to Samuel Fuller denouncing Leyden 
brethren, 192 

Subscription, Oath of, 26, 33-35 

Sumner, George, questioned Winslow's report of "Farewell 
Address," 249; his discussion regarding Robinson's fu- 
neral, 316-318; located Robinson's burial place, 318 

Thirty-nine Articles, — under Edward VI, 8; in canons of 

1603-4, 26; accepted by Robinson, 117 
Tickens (or Thickens), Ralph, joint purchaser with Robinson 

of house in Leyden, 137 

Virginia Company, granted patent to members of Leyden 
Church; never used, 234 

366 INDEX 

Walaeus, A., testimony concerning Robinson, 331, 332 

Weston, Thomas, counsellor of Robinson, 236 

White, Bridget, wife of Robinson, 138 

White, Jane, married Ralph Tickens, 137, 138 

White, Roger, reported Robinson's death, 312, 313 

Winslow, Edward, reported Robinson's so-called "Farewell 
Address," 243-247; testimony concerning Robinson's 
relation to other churches in Holland, 324-327; testi- 
mony concerning Robinson's funeral, 315 

Wood, Henry, joint purchaser with Robinson of house in 
Leyden, 137 

Yates, John, opposed Robinson regarding lay preaching, 

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