The tiny sect that Bradford joined was called in derision by their foes, Puritans just as Rev. Moon's movement is called in derision a cult. Bradford's movement felt they were purifying the English Church of all vestiges of Roman Catholicism. They saw themselves as super Protestants. They hated idleness and exalted thrift and industry. They liked Calvin. Bradford liked John Foxe's popular work, The Book of Martyrs (1566) which told of the persecution of Protestants from Catholics.
When James I came to power in 1603 he increasingly persecuted
them. Bradford writes, "For some were taken and clapt up in
prisons, others had their homes beset and watched night and day, and
hardly escaped their hands." They kept changing their place of
worship in an effort to escape arrest. To be arrested and
jailed is the usual course for God's champions. Even though
America has a Bill of Right saying there is freedom of
religion, many have been persecuted in America. Members of the
Church of Latter Day Saints were jailed and their founder, Joseph
Smith, was murdered in Illinois. Reverend Moon was innocent as
shown in Carlton Sherwood's book Inquisition, but was jailed
in America for one year at the age of 65. Members of the
Unification Church have been brutally kidnapped and abused by faith
breakers - some of whom have often never suffered jail time
after they had forcefully imprisoned others. Initiating force
is not God's way. Defending oneself is.
Pilgrims in Holland
Bradford writes how difficult it was to give up their home in England and move to Holland: "For these reformers to be thus constrained to leave their native soil, their lands and livings, and all their friends, was a great sacrifice, and was wondered at by many. But to go into a country unknown to them, torn by war, where they must learn a new language, and get their livings they knew not how, seemed an almost desperate adventure, and a misery worse than death. Further, they were unacquainted with trade, which was the chief industry of their adopted country, having been used only to a plain country life and the innocent pursuit of farming. But these things did not dismay them, though they sometimes troubled them; for their desires were set on the ways of God, to enjoy His ordinances; they rested on His providence, and knew Whom they had believed."
He wrote that their years at Leyden were good ones overall: "They enjoyed such sweet and delightful society under the able ministry and wise government of Mr. John Robinson, their minister, and Mr. William Brewster, who was made an elder of their church. They grew in knowledge and lived together in peace and love and holiness." He continues saying that their church grew and if there were any disagreements between them they resolved them quickly: "Many others came to them from England, and they made a great congregation. And if any differences came between them or laws were broken, they were met and nipped in the bud. Those offenders that could not be cured were sent away. But this seldom came to pass, for they had mutual love and respect for one another."
at subsistence wages. But "at length they came to raise a competent
and comfortable living, but with hard and continual labor." The men
worked 12 to 14 hours a day 6 days a week.
Holland they started a publishing house, the Pilgrim Press. King
James had the English ambassador to Holland denounce the "atrocious
and seditious libels" which were smuggled into England to aid the
Separatist cause. The King tried to persuade the Dutch authorities to
arrest the publishers and smash the press. They did seize and close
down the press, and the publisher went into hiding.
They saw their children in Holland "drown away by evil examples" of feasting and fun. Religion was central to the Pilgrims, and they wanted a purer environment for their children.
The Pilgrims knew the statistics of death of the colony in
Jamestown "but it had not affected their resolution to settle in
The main reason the Pilgrims left for America was to lay the foundation for the "Kingdom of Christ." In a memorable passage, he wrote, "a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation or at least to make some way ... for the propagating and advancing of the gospel of the Kingdom of Christ in these remote parts of the world. Yea, though they should be but even as stepping stones unto others for the performance of so great a work." They were God's chosen people who had a dream and would let no one take it away from them.
Pilgrims - not perfect
The Pilgrims were not perfect. Like any group, there are varying degrees of commitment and morality. But as a whole, they were an extraordinary group. Still, they made a great mistake when they did not see that God wanted them to reject Calvinism and accept Arianism (explained earlier in this chapter). One book says, "If the Pilgrims could have remained in prosperous, easy-going Amsterdam ..., they would have flourished materially. Practically all sects were free to teach their peculiar tenets, but the Pilgrims feared their church might split doctrinally.... Daily contact with Anabaptists, Socinians, Arians, Jews and miscellaneous heretics and unbelievers threatened their own tight orthodoxy. Hence they decided to leave." They moved to another city, Leyden, but they should have become Arians and started America off on a true view of Jesus.
In 1617, after 12 years of living in exile in Holland, they finally decided to go to America. There was a 3 year preparation and in 1620 they sailed. To finance the trip they needed a lot of money and some help from investors. Bradford sold all he had. They threw in with a man named Thomas Weston who offered to raise money in England for them. One book says, "Businessmen in England at that time were often called merchant adventurers. They made up a growing class of people who were getting rich in industry and trade. They invested their money in new business ventures in order to make a profit."
"Weston pulled together 70 merchant adventurers who agreed to back the Separatists' project. They did not share the religious views of the Separatists. It was the idea of a quick profit from a colony in America that interested them." They drew up a 7 year contract. The Pilgrims had many differences with Weston and the 70 venture capitalists. One book says, "Much of Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation is taken up with how miserably the adventurers used the Pilgrims." Bradford wrote, "Thus were they [the Pilgrims] abused in their simplicity." Religious pioneers are often not so sophisticated with money and secular society often takes advantage of them.