Page images

THE APOSTLE OF AMERICAN PURITANISM. Among our fathers, the name of Robinson stands conspicuous, for he must be regarded as the great apostle of American Puritanism, although he was never permitted to accompany his flock in their pilgrimage to “freedom's holy land.” Indeed, none of the great reformers of the preceding century is more deserving of celebrity. He was not surpassed even by Luther himself, in many of those qualities which belong to a master mind. Nor was the work he was destined to accomplish of much less importance in the blessings it was to confer on mankind. He had not that striking, commanding impetuosity of character, which belonged to the great German reformer, and it would have proved fatal to his cause if he had possessed it; but he had equal integrity, with more mildness, and with a moral firmness the most uncompromising. He swerved not from the path of right in the days of persecution, attended with imminent perils. He was unmoved by the voice of praise, and declined the honourable proposals made to him by the Leyden professors, who would have induced him to accept emolument and place for himself in the university. He chose rather to suffer affliction, and refused to be separated from his beloved pilgrim flock. His disinterestedness is perhaps the most prominent of his virtues. Although he may be called the founder of a new church, he was entirely free from the ambition of apostleship, and did every thing in his power to discountenance a bigoted attachment to himself, which the great excellence of his character might have very naturally produced among his followers. Especially did he renounce, with great earnestness, all pretensions to be regarded as an authority in matters of religious faith, although he was learned in all the religious controversies of the day, and a powerful disputant with the most eminent theologians of the period when Arminius and Episcopius flourished, as the doctors of Amsterdam have borne ample testimony. His liberality deserves honourable mention, which was especially displayed towards those, who, on account of his faith, had driven him into exile. This appears from his controversy with the Brownists, with whom some respectable historians have erroneously identified the church of Robinson. He denounced their exclusiveness, and declared his readiness to commune with the Church of England, and his approval of her doctrines, and expressed his opposition only to her prelatical pretensions.

Who among the great names we are accustomed to venerate displayed greater moral firmness than Robinson in the execution of his purposes ? Both his object and his plans seemed to be attended with almost insuperable difficulties. In the general estimation of the world at that time, the realization of his hopes was at least as problematical as the existence of another continent before the days of the great Genoese mariner. But he was set for the defence of principles which he knew to be true, although the world denounced them as delusions. Banished from his native land, with peril of martyrdom if he should return, he was doomed to dwell among strangers, not having the sympathies of whole provinces, nor receiving the smiles and safe conduct of princes, as did Luther when he went forth to war with wickedness in high places. He was compelled to suffer reproach without commiseration. Not only the Catholics, but the Protestant world also looked on with indifference, or to ridicule the man who dared to assert the necessity of a progressive reformation in the church, and who had started the chimerical project of a church-state in the bleak barren coasts of North America, “ amid wilde beasts and wilde men." Yet he failed not fearlessly to point out the defects of the reformation, in an age when the influence of its burning and shining light was at its spring-tide, and especially to plead against hierarchical oppression.

At length, discouraged with the dark prospect which shut out all hope of the farther progress of religious reform and freedom in the state, he earnestly set himself and his faithful followers to prepare for their great mission to the new world. And now there was wanting something besides the zeal of a reformer, to inspire a consistent as well as undying devotion to the cause in which they had engaged. Mere enthusiasm might have led them to embark in an enterprise far more hopeless. There was needed the sound wisdom of the philosopher, combined with what is much more rarely met with, the patience and practical discretion of the great statesman, to render successful this novel scheme of colonization. The memorials that yet remain, though defective, are enough to shew that he possessed all these qualifications

in a high degree. For eleven years he instructed his people in Holland, and then they were ready to depart. That probationary period of the pilgrims, under the tuition of such a pastor as Robinson, is a chapter in their history full of "hidden meaning," and crowded with the most important consequences as to the future character of the colonists, and the institutions they were to establish. When we subsequently witness the wisdom of Carver and Bradford, the approved piety and meekness of Brewster, “their ruling elder," the courage of Standish, and the patience and fortitude of all, even the weakest of the pilgrims, when perils and perplexity came upon them, we can be at no loss to discover the grounds of that attachment and reverence which they always expressed for “the excellent Mr. Robinson," as well as the nature of the instructions he had given them.

It was during this period also that Mr. Robinson stood in the relation of the great Jewish lawgiver to the children of Israel in the wilderness, being the founder of the civil polity as well as the religious code of his people. He did not indeed prescribe for them definite formularies for their social organization, but he had most thoroughly imbued their minds with all the great principles of civil and religious liberty. Like Moses, also, when he had long led his chosen flock in their pilgrimage, he was not permitted to enter with them the promised land. But he accompanied them to the waterside on the day of their embarkation, to give them his benediction, and to comfort them in the sorrows of that separation, which they, the first of their emigrant race, were the first to suffer. Had we no other memorial than the address he gave them when they left the city of Leyden, that alone would be sufficient to immortalize his name. We venture to say, that no document in the religious history of Europe is more worthy of consideration, and that no assemblage ever convened under circumstances of more thrilling interest, than did the church of Robinson on the day of fasting and prayer preparatory to the embarkation. They were not assuredly an assembly of enthusiasts, although the occasion of their coming together was so unwonted and strange. Emotions too deep for tears pervaded their solemn meeting, whilst those who are to remain behind are thinking of the separation on the morrow, and the adventurers listen for the last time to the counsels of their faithful pastor. So appropriately does his address accord with the true nature and destiny of their expedition, that we might almost be justified in the idea, that it was inspired by a presentiment of the glorious results as they stand unfolded to our own view. The loftiest principles of religious liberty are uttered in language of impressive brevity, of matchless pathos, of the most catholic spirit, and without one word of railing accusation toward those who had been the occasion of all their sufferings.

This address of Robinson is well worthy to be regarded as the Magna Charta of the conscience, till the end of time. It should be for ever taught in all the schools and churches of the descendents of the Puritans. It will ere long triumph over the proudest spiritual dominations of the world.The Nero Englander.


To the Editor of the Independent Magazine. Dear Sir-It would be difficult to answer all the questions of your correspondent D. G. respecting ordination, without entering more at large on the general subject than might be consistent with your limits, and with the object of your useful periodical. My words shall be few, and should it hereafter appear to be desirable to write more fully, I shall probably communicate my remarks to the public through another channel. Ordination is neither more nor less than appointment. It presupposes choice. A christian brother having been chosen to office by a christian society is appointed to office, i. e. his having been chosen is publicly declared, and prayer is offered to the giver of all good that he would vouchsafe his blessing. It appears that such appointment and prayer were originally accompanied by “the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." It may be true that in primitive times special gifts were usually imparted on such occasions, but I do not think that they were always imparted.

Imposition of hands was practised on many other solemn occasions. Jacob placed his hands on the heads of his grandsons when he blessed them. Christ placed his hands on persons when he healed their maladies, and on infants when he blessed them. The blessing did not depend on the circumstance of even the Saviour's hands being placed on them. Imposition of hands



was merely a visible and affecting token of the Saviour's love to them and of their being the individuals on whom his blessing would rest. I have no difficulty in answering the question as to the meaning of this ceremony. When we use it in ordination, we practise it as a visible sign of our christian affection for the ordained brother, of our approval of the choice which the church have made of him as their pastor, of his being appointed to office, and of the earnestness of our prayers that the benediction of the head of the church may constantly be granted to him. Once at least I assisted at an ordination in which this ceremony was omitted. The young man ordained preferred its being omitted. Nor would I hesitate at any time to act in a similar manner under similar circumstances, being fully convinced that the ceremony, though lawful and impressive, is by no means essential. Bristol.

J. B. B.



OCTOBER 1. Morning Reading, 1 Sam. xxx. 1-25. Morning Lesson, Matt. ix. 1–8.


Verse 1. From what place did Christ enter ? Matt. viii. 28. What did he pass over ? The sea of Galilee. Which was his own city ? Matt. iv. 13. Mark ii. 1.-Verse 2. What was the palsy ? A disease which made its subjects incapable of using their limbs. There were various kinds of palsy. See Barnes' Notes. How many carried him, and how did they bring him to Jesus ? Mark ii. 3, 4. Luke v. 19. What proved their faith? The pains they took to bring the palsied man near.—Verse 3. What made the scribes think evil of Christ? They did not know his authority and divine power. What is it to blaspheme ? To utter words against God, and words which God alone may with propriety use. The scribes accused Christ of the latter kind of blasphemy.-VERSE 4. Then Christ could read the heart ? Yes. See other examples. Matt. xii. 25. Mark xii. 15. Luke vi, 8; ix. 47; xi, 17, &c.-Verse 5. What did Christ mean by these words ? That if he could heal, he could also forgive sins.-VERSE 6. What had the words "arise" &c., to do


« PreviousContinue »