Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Strangers and pilgrims, travelers and sojourners

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

On this date 395 years ago, September 16, 1620, the ship Mayflower departed Plymouth, England for the New World, carrying 102 passengers. Two months earlier, the Speedwell had left Leiden, where the English separatists had lived for more than 10 years. The send-off letter was written by my 9th-great-grandfather, Rev. John Robinson, their minister. He stayed in Leiden, Netherlands, where he died in 1625 at age 49. Considering how extreme the Calvinist Puritan practices became in the next decades, it's amazing to see how reasonable, practical, loving, and outright kind he was.

Plaque on Pieterskerk Church in Leiden.
Photo: http://www.henkvankampen.com/the-pilgrim-fathers/
Part of his letter-sermon said that they must make every effort to be at peace with all men. This wasn't only about being at peace with God and themselves, nor was it sufficient to keep from being offensive to others, or to be careless in word or deed and then expect others to be gracious and forgiving. ("Chill! I was only joking! Can't you take a joke?") Rather, he says, think about the "strangers" among them --the people joining the expedition who were not part of their shared Christian fellowship in England and the Netherlands-- and remember to witness to them by "brotherly forbearance" and graciousness. In other words, show your Christianity by living it, not preaching it.
John Robinson's words: 
Now, next after this heavenly peace with God and our own consciences, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men what in us lieth, especially with our associates. And for that, watchfulness must be had that we neither at all in ourselves do give, no, nor easily take offense being given by others. Woe be unto the world for offenses, for though it be necessary (considering the malice of Satan and man's corruption) that offenses come, yet woe unto the man, or woman either, by whom the offense cometh, saith Christ, Matthew 18:7. And if offenses in the unseasonable use of things, in themselves indifferent, be more to the feared than death itself (as the Apostle teacheth, 1 Corinthians 9:15) how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honor of God nor love of man is thought worthy to be regarded. Neither yet is it sufficient that we keep ourselves by the grace of God from giving offense, except withal we be armed against the taking of them when they be given by others. For how unperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person who wants charity to cover a multitude of offenses, as the Scriptures speak!

But besides these, there are divers motives provoking you above others to great care and conscience this way: As first, you are many of you strangers, as to the persons so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way, lest when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them; which doth require at your hands much wisdom and charity for the covering and preventing of incident offenses that way. And, lastly, your intended course of civil community will minister continual occasion of offense, and will be as fuel for that fire, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. 
You can read John Robinson's farewell letter to the Pilgrims at this site: http://www.revjohnrobinson.com/writings.htm 

The meme depicts the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower,
agreeing to the Mayflower Compact.

Christy K Robinson, 12 generations removed from Rev. John Robinson, is the author of five-star nonfiction and fiction historical books, as well as author of Rooting for Ancestors and William and Mary Barrett Dyer websites. You will find her books at http://bit.ly/RobinsonAuthor.

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

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