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A History of American Christianity by Bacon

'between the unconformable ministers and you


We

do not need to be told that to the little Separatist settlement at Plymouth, still in the first decade of its feeble existence, the founding, within a day's journey, of this powerful colony, on ecclesiastical principles distinctly antagonistic to their own, was a momentous, even a formidable fact. Critical, nay, vital questions emerged at once, which the subtlest churchcraft might have despaired of answering. They were answered, solved, harmonized, by the spirit of Christian love.

That great spiritual teacher, John Robinson, besides his more general exhortations to brotherly kindness and charity, had spoken, in the spirit of prophecy, some promises and assurances which came now to a divine fulfillment. Pondering "sundry weighty and solid reasons" in favor of removal from Holland, the pilgrims put on record that "their pastor would often say that many of those who both wrote and preached against them would practice as they did if they were in a place where they might have liberty and live conformably." One of the most affectionate of his disciples, Edward Winslow, wrote down some of the precious and memorable words which the pastor, who was to see their face no more, uttered through his tears as they were about to leave him. "'There will be no difference,' he said, 'between the unconformable ministers and you, when they come to the practice of the ordinances out of the kingdom.' And so he advised us to close with the godly party of the kingdom

of England, and rather to study union than division, viz., how near we might possibly without sin close with them, rather than in the least measure to affect division or separation from them."

The solitude of the little starving hamlet by the sea was favorable to the springing and fructifying of this seed in the good and honest hearts into which it had been cast. Before the great fleet of colonists, with its three unconformable Church of England clergymen, had reached the port of Salem the good seed had been planted anew in other hearts not less honest and good. It fell on this wise. The pioneer party at Salem who came with Endicott, "arriving there in an uncultivated desert, many of them, for want of wholesome diet and convenient lodgings, were seized with the scurvy and other distempers, which shortened many of their days, and prevented many of the rest from performing any great matter of labor that year for advancing the work of the plantation." Whereupon the governor, hearing that at Plymouth lived a physician "that had some skill that way," wrote thither for help, and at once the beloved physician and deacon of the Plymouth church, Dr. Samuel Fuller, hastened to their relief. On what themes the discourse revolved between the Puritan governor just from England and the Separatist deacon already for so many years an exile, and whither it tended, is manifested in a letter written soon after by Governor Endicott, of Salem, to Governor Bradford, of Plymouth, under date May 11 (= 21), 1629. The letter marks an epoch in the history of American Christianity:

"_To the worshipful and my right worthy friend, William Bradford, Esq., Governor of New Plymouth, these:_

"RIGHT WORTHY SIR: It is a thing not usual that servants to one Master and of the same household should be strangers. I assure you I desire it not; nay, to speak more plainly, I cannot be so to you. God's people are marked with one and the same mark, and sealed with one and the same seal, and have, for the main, one and the same heart, guided by one and the same Spirit of truth; and where this is there can be no discord--nay, here must needs be sweet harmony. The same request with you I make unto the Lord, that we may as Christian brethren be united by a heavenly and unfeigned love, bending all our hearts and forces in furthering a work beyond our strength, with reverence and fear fastening our eyes always on him that only is able to direct and prosper all our ways.


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