Religion, has been amongst us these 35 years; but the more it is disseminated, the more it is condemned by many. Thus, not profanity or wickeness, but Religion itself is a byword, a mocking stock, and a matter of reproach; so that in England at this day the man or woman who begins to profess religion and to serve God, must resolve within himself to sustain mocks and injuries as though he lived among the enemies of religion. ~Mr. Perkins, 1646
They were given the name, “Puritans.” A name reflecting scorn, it was given out of assumed pride and contempt to disgrace religion. It also resulted in affliction, grief, persecution, exile and imprisonment, to those who expressed commitment to God.
But the labors of faithful preachers and God’s blessing on their labors, brought grace and reform to many parts of England, restoring the lives of many, through the Word of God.
Becoming known as reformers, the Puritans believed that the retaining of spiritual offices by the bishops, was in striking contrast to the reformed churches, whose faith practices reflected more nearly those of the first Christian churches of the Apostles.
And it was for the reasons above that the Puritans were not long permitted to remain in peace.
They were hunted and persecuted on every side, until their former afflictions were but small in comparison. Some were put in prison. Others had their houses watched day and night, eventually having to leave their homes and their livelihood. And after continued threat to their lives, for their commitment to their faith, they resolved to find a place of freedom of worship. And in 1607 and 1608, they resolved to move to Holland as soon as they could.
For the Puritans to feel constrained to leave their homeland, would be a great sacrifice, one that was wondered at by many. To go to a country unknown to them, would mean they would have to learn a new language and find new ways of earning a living. And being only familiar with the plain, country life and farming to provide for their families, learning another trade would be necessary to provide for themselves and their families.
But this was not all. For though it was made intolerable for them to stay, they were not allowed to leave; the ports were shut against them. So seeking secret means of conveyance, bribing captains of ships and paying extraordinary rates for their passages, was necessary.
Many of the Puritans decided to take passage from Boston into Lincolnshire. Hiring a ship and a captain, they arranged to embark on their passage. Agreeing to meet the captain at a convenient place and on a particular day, they made ready for their journey.
But the captain, did not show up in the day, but at night. And sadly after boarding the ship, with their goods, the Puritans found themselves in a desperate situation. The captain, having betrayed them, had them all searched, for their money, then took them back to town to be made a spectacle of.
Then after being brought before the magistrates, the Puritans were imprisoned for thirty days. At the end of that time, most of the Puritans were released, except for seven leaders, who were kept and bound over to a jury trial.
It was the following spring when the Puritans made an attempt to take another passage to Lincolnshire. Finding an agreeable Dutchman who was sympathetic to their cause, he bade them have no fear.
The women and children were sent to meet at the place at an arranged time at a small barque, which they had hired and the men were to meet them by land.
Unfortunately, their arrival was a day early. The journey had been a hard one and the women were very sick. The sailors settled into a creek, but grounded with the low water and were stuck. The captain of the ship sent his boat to get the men aboard, who were already walking on shore.
But after the first boatfull, the captain saw a threatening sight; a group of men on horseback, armed with guns and other weapons, coming to capture the Pilgrims. In a panic, the Dutchman, weighed anchor, and began to sail, having only the men on board, leaving the wives and children thus to be captured – destitute of help. The men were now helpless as well, having only the clothes on their backs, and no money, having had all of their possessions taken.
And the women and children, left in distress, saw their husbands carried away with the ship, not knowing what would become of them. Having no homes to go to, they were conveyed from one constable to another. Wanting to be rid of them, on any terms, necessity made a way for the women and children, after having endured enough misery.
The men didn’t have it easy either. A great distress they bore, as their wives and children were left to be captured, destitute of help. For themselves, they were without any clothes except for the ones on their backs. There was scarcely a penny between them and their possessions had all been seized. They would have given anything to be on shore again, but there was no remedy, and they had to sadly depart.
After their departure, they endured a fearful storm at sea, and it was fourteen days or more before they reached port. Seven of those days were without sun, moon, nor stars, as they were being driven near the coast of Norway.
The sailors themselves often despaired and once with shrieks and cries gave over to all, as if the ship had foundered, and they were sinking without recovery.
But when man’s hope and help wholly failed, there appeared the Lord’s power and mercy to save them; for the ship rose again, and gave the crew courage to manage her.
Modesty permitted, the voyagers cried to the Lord in their distress, with fervent prayers – even remaining fairly collected when the water ran into their mouths and ears; and when the sailors called out, “We sink, we sink,” the voyagers cried with miraculous and sublime faith: “Yet, Lord, Thou canst save; Yet, Lord, Thou canst save!” Upon which, the ship not only righted herself, but shortly afterward the violence of the storm began to abate, and the Lord filled their afflicted minds with such comfort as but few can understand and in the end brought them to their desired haven, where the people came flocking, astonished at their deliverance, the storm having been so long and violent.
The result of these public afflictions upon the Puritans resulted in widespread knowledge regarding their cause, which became famous, leading many to inquire about the Puritan’s story. Their Christian behavior left a deep impression on the minds of many. Their courage, in the storms of heavy opposition, saw them through the opposition. And in the end, they all arrived from one place and another, to meet again – with no small rejoicing. (The historical record above is from, The Plymouth Settlement by William Bradford, rendered into modern English by Harold Paget 1909)
Thanksgiving 2020 is just around the corner. And at this time, we remember the Pilgrims’ faithfulness to endure hardships to settle in America for freedom; to worship God and live out their faith, without persecution.
During the past year, our own country has experienced, a social, biological, political and spiritual battle – one that in many ways, has appeared as an organized effort to control, undermine, overturn and remove virtually all standards of moral absolutes as well as denounce the message of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. And those whose faith rests in a holy God, often find themselves in a position of being faulted for “interfering” with any restrictions regarding how an individual chooses to engage in life.
The battle is a difficult one, and it calls for a specific dress code for those who identify themselves as Christians; one of armor, described in the Bible, Ephesians 6:
- A girdle of truth
- A breastplate of righteousness
- Shoes of the gospel of peace
- The shield of faith
- The helmet of salvation
- The sword of the spirit; the Word of God
- Praying always
For myself, I will be taking my own tarnished armor out of the closet and polishing it. I have neglected wearing it for a while, because it was heavy. But, I want to wear it again. And this holiday, remembering the Pilgrims’ faith in God, is a good time to do so. And, as I put on the armor, I will honor the meaning of each piece …. with Thanksgiving.
~ Paulette Jackson, lpc-mhsp
The thoughts and intentions expressed in The Conversant Counselor’s Blog are those belonging to Paulette Jackson lpc-mhsp and do not necessarily reflect those of any other professional or individual.
The information above is adapted and reprinted from, The Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650 by William Bradford. Pgs. 9-13. Rendered into Modern English by Harold Paget 1909. Republished by; American Heritage Classics, 1988.
photo credit: The Plymouth Settlement by William Bradford/American Heritage Classics, 1988.