John Robinson’s Farewell Counsel

From Words of John Robinson. Robinson’s Farewell Address to the Pilgrims upon their Departure from Holland, 1620 (and other sermons) [1620]

Words of John Robinson
Old South Leaflets. No. 142.

[1]

Robinson’s Farewell Address to the Pilgrims upon their Departure from Holland, 1620. The Account by Edward Winslow in his “Hypocrisie Unmasked,” Printed in 1646.

“In the next place, for the wholsome 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 England amongst other wholeome 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 then he followed Christ. And if God should reveal anything to us by any other instrument 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 then the instruments of their Reformation: As for example, the Lutherans they could not be drawne 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 then 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 times, 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 [2]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, and well to examine and compare, and weigh it with other Scriptures of truth, before we received it; For, saith he, It is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick Antichristian darknesse, and that full perfection of knowledge should breake forth at once.

“Another thing hee commended to us, was, that wee should use all meanes to avoid and shake off the name of Brownist, being a meer nickname and brand to make Religion odious, and the professors of it [odious] to the Christian world; and to that end, said hee, I should be glad if some godly Minister would goe over with you, or come to you, before my coming; For, said hee, there will bee no difference between the unconformable [Noncomformist] Ministers and you, when they come to the practice of the Ordinances out of the Kingdome: And so advised us by all meanes to endeavour to close with the godly party of the Kingdome of England, and rather to study union then division; viz. how neare we might possibly, without sin close with them, then in the least measure to affect division or separation from them. And be not loath to take another Pastor or Teacher, saith hee, for that flock that hath two shepheards is not indangered, but secured by it.

“Many other things there were of great and weighty consequence which he commended to us, but these things I thought good to relate, at the request of some well-willers to the peace and good agreement of the godly, (so distracted at present about the settling of Church-government in the Kingdom ofEngland) that so both sides may truly see what this poor despised Church of Christ now at New-Plymouth in New-England, but formerly at Leyden in Holland, was and is; how far they were and still are from separation from the Churches of Christ, especially those that are Reformed.”

“Winslow’s Brief Narration: the true grounds or cause of the first planting of New England”

(also known as Hypocrisie Unmasked) as printed in Alexander Young’s Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers. Boston: Charles C. Little & James Brown, 1841.

“In the next place, for the wholesome counsel Mr. Robinson gave that part of the church whereof he was pastor at their departure from him to begin the great work of plantation in New England, – amongst other wholesome instructions and exhortations he 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 any thing to us by any other instrument 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 break forth out of his holy word. He took occasion also miserably to bewail the state and condition of the Reformed Churches, who were come to a period in religion, and would go no further than the instruments of their Reformation. As, for example, the Lutherans, they could not be drawn to go 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 be lamented; for though they were precious shining lights in their times, yet God had not revealed his whole will to them; and were they now living, saith he, they would be 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 we 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 withal exhorted us to take heed what we received for truth, and well to examine and compare it and weigh it with other Scriptures of truth before we received it. For, saith he, it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.

’Another thing he commended to us, was that we should use all means to avoid and shake off the name of Brownist, being a mere nickname and brand to make religion odious and the professors of it to the Christian world. And to that end, said he, I should be glad if some godly minister would go over with you before my coming; for, said he, there will be no difference between the uncomformable ministers and you, when they come to the practices of the ordinances out of the kingdom. And so advised us by all means to endeavour to closely 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, than in the least measure to affect division or separation from them. And be not loath to take another pastor or teacher, saith he; for that flock that hath two shepherds is not endangered but secured by it.’

From The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America

“The arrangements for the departure of the emigrants being completed, the whole congregation met for humiliation and prayer on the 21st of July, 1620, when Mr. Robinson preached, with deep emotion, from Ezra 8:21–22. The close of his discourse is thus given by Mr. Winslow: ‘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 any thing to us by any other instrument 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 break forth out of his holy word. He took occasion also miserably to bewall the state and condition of the Reformed churches who were come to a period in religion, and would go no further than the instruments of their reformation. As for example, the Lutherans, they could not be drawn to go 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 wtick where he left them, a mistery much to be lamented; for though they were precious shinging lights in ther times, yet God had not revealed his whole will to theml and were they now living, sait he, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as that htey had received. Here also he put us in mind of our church covenant, at least that part of it whereby we promise and covenant with God and one another to receive whatsoever light or truth shall be made known to us from his written Word; but withal exhorted us to take heed what we received for truth, and well to examine and compare it and weigh it with other Scriptures of truth before we received it. For saith he, it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.” 1

Notes:

  1. William B. Sprague. Annals of the American Pulpit – 1857

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