26 September 2009

"Of their Settling in Holland, and their Manner of living, and Entertainment there" Chapter 3, 1609 - 1620 A.D.

1... Finally, the Pilgrims have arrived in Holland and, what's even more thrilling, I'm on the third chapter of this book! (Actually I have read much further, this is the third chapter I've taken notes on)

...For one year the pilgrims lived in Amsterdam, famous for its numerous canals and dikes.

...Then they moved to Leyden, or
Leiden, as the modern day spelling would have it, which was and is a prosperous little town in the Low Lands. Below is a map for exact location.

...At the time Leiden was actually quite famous, having just defeated the Spaniards in a daring siege some thirty or so years before. The story of that siege is worth including here, since it will give some insights as to the inhabitants character. For brevity's sake I will not give the tale in my own, vibrant rendition, which tends to be rather long, and instead post the short unexciting facts straight off of Wikipedia. (Not always the best resource keep in mind) You can also go here for one of my own versions elsewhere. (Note, in the last link Leyden is not specifically mentioned, merely the way between Spain and the Netherlands.)

"In 1572, the city sided with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule and played an important role in the Eighty Years' War. Besieged from May until October 1574 by the Spanish, Leiden was relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town. As a reward for the heroic defense of the previous year, the University of Leiden was founded by William I of Orange in 1575. Yearly on 3 October, the end of the siege is still celebrated in Leiden. Tradition tells that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes and chose the university."

... To continue. This chapter will cover the time between 1609 and 1620 in which the Puritans try to make a life for themselves in Holland, and end up being dissatisfied with the mode of life there. And for good reasons as we will see. It was in Leiden that the idea of leaving for the New World is born.

...2. Terms Defined!

...A. "Theses"; "In the original meaning of the word: propositions which would be posted up on a university bulletin board as a challenge to others to dispute if they would." Samuel Morison

...B. "Burgomaster"; Not the daddy of burger flipping. "This is
the chief magistrate of a town in some European countries." Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online ...

C. "Scaliger, Heinsius, Arminius, Vorstius, Golius, and Cluvier." I just wanted to make sure you were awake and paying attention. These are actually not terms that will likely come up in my reviews but they are proper names. These men were scholars at the University of Leyden during, before, and after, the pilgrims stay there.

3. Facts, facts, facts!

...As I have already stated, the Puritans slowly but surely trickled into the Low Countries. They came separately, in small groups, and however they could. It was hard to sneak in and took them nearly a year to all get across. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Brewster, Elders in the Seperatist congregation, were some of the last to come. Bradford notes that they were concerned for the weaker members of their flock and stayed to help them over. And at long last, everyone was in Amsterdam.

...And what a to do Amsterdam was. It happened to be a large, prosperous, growing, city at the time. Trade was booming with the lifted restrictions during the twelve year truce, and the Netherlands were making the most of it. At this time Amsterdam was famous for its diamonds and jewelers, as well as its shipping lines. The people were different from the English in many ways, Bradford speaks of them saying "[we] heard a strange and uncouth language, and beheld the different manners and customs of the people, with their strange fashions and attires; all so far differing from that of [our] plain country villages (wherein [we were] bred and had so long lived) as it seemed they were come unto a new world."

...Strange. That seems to be an adjective Bradford uses allot. Maybe its similar to the way everyone say "like" in our own times, but I digress. Bradford certainly had an excuse to think the Netherlanders attire "strange" because it was the custom of many to wear wooden shoes, called clogs, or klompen.

...Despite the richness of their new environment the Puritans had a difficult time. They were no longer persecuted for their strict beliefs, but a new enemy reared its ugly head. Poverty.Bradford describes it this way.

..."Although they saw fair and beautiful cities, flowing with an abundance of all sorts of wealth and riches, yet it was not long before they saw the grim and grisly face of poverty coming upon them like an armed man, with whom they must buckle and encounter, and from whom they could not fly. But they were armed with faith and patience against him and all his encounters; and though they were sometimes foiled, yet by God's assistance they prevailed and got the victory." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 3.

...Though Bradford confidently asserts the congregations trust in God, and their victory, which only proves the resilience and strength of their faith, the road was never easy. We shall see later in the chapter how quickly they were overtaken with need and want again when the truce was nigh ending.

...Hoping for better circumstances in Leyden, the congregation moved. Leydon does not have a port like Amsterdam, and for awhile it was even more difficult there. But, being here established, they made a go of it and ended up making a "hard but competent living, but with hard and continual labour." And for eleven years this continued under the "able ministry of and prudent government of Mr. John Robinson and Mr. William Brewster".

...Others, from England and other places, began to flock to the Separatists "camp" of operations until they grew into what Bradford calls a "great congregation". (The exact number is not listed) Bradford comments on the deep love and communion between the members of the congregation, so deep that they scarcely ever had problems, and, even if they did, it was "nipped in the head" restoring peace. Occasionally there were times when "the church purged off those that were incurable and incorrigible, when, after much patience used, no other means would serve." I would dearly love to know what made these people incurable and incorrigible, but Bradford does not list there actual offenses. It is very possible that they were those who wished to take up new occupations elsewhere, and otherwise assimilate with Dutch culture as these are eventually the concerns that send the congregation to New England's shores.

...Several paragraphs in the middle of the chapter are devoted to praising the love and care Mr. Robinson and Mr. Brewster gave to their adoring congregation. Bradford is not scanty in allegories or praising words, comparing the fellowship to the Roman days under Marcus Aurelius when "it was hard to judge whether he delighted more in having such a people, or they in having such a pastor [emperor]". (Not that he was praising the Romans, merely drawing a comparison between their love for their emperor and the Scrooge congregations love for their pastor.)

...He then says he knows he can say without prejudice that "such was the true piety, the humble zeal and fervent love of this people towards God and His ways ........that they came as near the primitive pattern of the first churches as any other church of these later times have done." I think this is quite a claim and definitely somewhat biased, every man thinks his church the best I say. No doubt Geneva folk thought their congregation the most "first churchly", but I digress.

...Apparently, in later times, some dirt was cast across the congregations reputation while living in Leydon. Bradford claims this is the work of "some of their adversary's" and sets out to repudiate the claims.

...Slander #1. The pilgrims are leaving Holland so that country must be kicking them out! (Re-worded by me of course)

...Slander #2. The pilgrims are not leaving of their own accord, they must have done something to make the country "weary" of them. (These are both basically saying the same thing, and both are re-worded by me)

...To finish the chapter Bradford sets out to "mention a particular or two to show the contrary" which particular or two take up 2 1/2 pages. Firstly he reminds everybody that though the pilgrims were poor, none of the Dutch hesitated to lend them money and assistance - knowing that they were careful to keep their word and fulfill their debts. The Dutch even sought out the foreigners to employ above others because of their reputation for honesty and diligence. Also in that time their were many disputes at the university of Leyden primarily because of Arminian controversies. Mr. Robinson, was invited to refute these heresies at the university and did so with such thoroughness that the public adored him. And, when it became known that the Puritans were going to set out for the New World, there were many who desired and offered them money to settle in New Netherland - instead of New England. But the Scrooby congregation was English to the core and did not want to lose their identity as such, which will be shown in the next chapter review.

5. Hardship and and continual labor. The Puritans were poor, so poor Bradford makes it sound like they could barely keep themselves from starving. Yet they worked, and they fought, for what they believed to be right, trusting that God would reward them in due season.

..."For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:9-10 New King James Version

...Deny your flesh! As Christians we must often take the hard road, the less traveled road with thorns and briers. Did not Christ say "take up your cross and follow me?" It would have been so easy for the Puritans to ignore their conscience, to adapt to the way of things in England. (And I'm not saying who was right or wrong in the Separatist issues of the time, merely pointing out that we should always listen to conscience) But in the renowned words of Martin Luther in his speech at the Diet of Worms, "It is neither safe nor honest to go act contrary to conscience!" They could not but choose to adhere to the word of God which had captured their minds and held possession of their conscience, we should see that we do likewise.

...Also, they trusted that God, who sees all things, would reward them in due time. And He did. He blessed them with a country to worship freely, a chance for new beginnings with their children. ( Some notable descendants of the Pilgrims include; Noah Webster, Sarah Davis, the Wright Brothers, George B. MClellan, Henry Wadsworth Longsfellow, Katherine Hepburn, Benjamin Harris Brewster, Clint Eastwood, Sarah Palin, Jennifer, Calvin, Robert, Johanna, and Rebecca Martinez - and other respectables too numerous to count)

...The lesson for us here? Lay down our wills on the altar of self-sacrifice and live for the glory of God! We exist for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our own comfort, bigger than our own natures. We exist to love, enjoy, obey, and glorify our Creator. I will tell you a secret the Pilgrims knew, the only true lasting pleasure we can have in this life is to be at one with the will of God. Find your happiness in His will for your life, and live it to the fullest. Lets hold nothing back for later so that at the end of this race we may hear Him say "well done my good and faithful servant".

6. Less "funny" for this section, than controversial, is the subject of Jacob Arminius, a professor of theology at the University of Leyden from 1603 to his death in 1609. Arminius, as his name suggests, was the Father of Arminianism. At the time his followers called themselves Remonstrants and in 1618 were named heretics by the Synod of Dort. Understanding that this topic is far too weighty a matter to list here, the main differences between Remonstrants and Calvinists (including our pilgrims), were as follows.

...Here are the five points of Calvinism confirmed at the Synod of Dort;

Total Inability or Total Depravity

2. Unconditional Election

Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement

The Efficacious Call of the Spirit or
Irresistible Grace

5. Perseverance of the Saints

...For the sake of brevity I am not going to defend, define, or support the above, simply leave them as they are trusting that my reader has a sufficient understanding of what they mean to be able to spot the major differences in the five Armenian points listed below.

Free-Will or Human Ability

Conditional Election

Universal Redemption or General Atonement

The Holy Spirit Can Be Effectually Resisted

Falling from Grace

... The Pilgrims, ascribing to the Calvinist view, were very concerned about the Armenian controversies. Bradford tells how zealous Mr. Robinson was to discover the truth, that "though he taught thrice a week [lecturing his own congregation] himself, and wrote sundry books besides his manifold pains otherwise, yet he went constantly to hear their readings and heard the one as well as the other [Dutch Calvinist professors of theology and Armenian]; by which means he was so well grounded in the controversy and saw the force of all their arguments and knew the shifts of the adversary."

...Know your opponent, whoever he may be. If we hope to discover truth from Gods Word we must not come to it with our own conclusions in mind already, we must come to it to see what it says. The pilgrims studied the argument and came to convictions from their observations in Gods word. This is an attitude we should all have in arguments of today. If we hope to win souls to our side, or convict fellow Christians of erroneous doctrine, we cannot climb a hill and shout down at them our opinions! We must go to the word of God, study both sides and how to best communicate our position once we are certain we have come to a proper understanding of the doctrine, and guard ourselves against pride.

...Anyhow, this concludes the "orange" section. Rather scattered with no particular destination in mind - it merely serves to point out some of the controversy's then which are still controversy's today.

7. Next review, the dangers and causes for the Pilgrims decision to leave the Netherlands. A New World is in sight!

23 September 2009

Chapter 2; "Of their Departure into Holland and their Troubles thereabout, with some of the many Difficulties they found and met withal." 1608

1. This is a short chapter, only four pages, and will receive a short review. As its title denotes, the Puritans are about to leave fair England for the wetter clime of Holland. This was easier said than done, in England and indeed most countries of the time a special license was required to "legally" leave the country and travel abroad. At the time licenses were hard to obtain by Roman Catholics and dissenters. England did not want her dissatisfied citizens stirring up trouble in rival countries. ...After a failed attempt to flee in 1607, the Scrooby congregation "gat" over to Amsterdam in 1608.

...Historically readers should be aware that the Netherlands had just declared themselves the "United Republic of the Netherlands", asserting their independence from Spain. The fighting over this independence lasted eighty years, from 1568 - 1648. (The war was being fought mainly over freedom of religion, the Netherlands were majority Calvinists while Spain was a Catholic country; and Phillip II of Spain wanted to crush the Protestants in his empire.) At the time of the Puritans emigration to Holland the "Twelve Years Truce" had been enacted, due to expire in 1621. To read more about the Netherlands fight for independence go here, and here.

2. Terms Defined

A."Gat"; in Bradford's time this meant "get" or "got". Wouldn't it be funny if people still used "gat" today? "Gat Milk? anybody?" Whats a Gat's milk mommy? Have you ever heard of a Gat? What about a Hoo?

B."Scrooby"; not a distant relative of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooby is the name of a small village in the English county of Nottinhmshire. The Puritan congregation from Scrooby was consequently called the Scrooby congregation.

3. Now for the facts. With the increasing hostility in England the Separatists resolved to make their way, if at all possible, to the Netherlands. This was easier dreamed up than done. For many of the Separatists it was too impossible a task to be undertaken, they had young and old, nursing mothers, and sick, to care for. But for some, a young William Bradford among them, it was a goal worth fighting for. The Pilgrims evidenced the same spirit of determination that the pioneers of Americas untamed prairies did when the set out in their little prairie "schooners" navigating the unknown seas of waving grass. Out there, somewhere, was a better life for them and their children. And the Puritans would not give up.

...Unable to obtain "legal" documents permitting them to leave the country, the Separatists decided to use less than legal means. They resorted to bribery. Yes, it is true, our sterling examples of human piety, were not above underhand means to achieve their ends. However even this was not a sure way of smuggling out. On numerous occasions, and Bradford only mentions a few, the bribed sailors turned them in for rewards, or deserted them and their goods at the last moment when discovery was eminent. Once a large group of the Separatists with woman and children were boarding a Dutchman's ship when soldiers arrived. Thus far only the men had boarded, with the women, children, and goods on shore. When the sailors saw the approaching cavalry they set sail, leaving the rest behind. Few people could swim in those days and the poor fathers and husbands were only able to watch helplessly as the woman were arrested on shore, themselves being rushed off without a coin to feed them when they arrived at their destinations! Bradford does not relate the end of the matter, besides that the woman and remaining men were eventually set free, and we are left hoping that the families were eventually reunited.

...In the end, "with no small rejoicing", the whole of them "gat" over a little at a time, no doubt smuggled in small batches. The number totaled about 125.

...4. Here is a quote of Bradford's from the end of the chapter which, if nothing else, shows the steadfast faith of Bradford in trusting God despite the circumstances to work His sovereign will for the good of those who love and trust in Him.

..."I will omit the rest, though I might relate many other notable passages and troubles which they endured and underwent in these their wanderings and travels both at land and sea; but I haste to other things. Yet I may not omit the fruit that came hereby, for by these so public troubles in so many eminent places their cause became famous and occasioned many to look into the same, and their godly carriage and Christian behavior was such as left a deep impression in the minds of many. And though some few shrunk few shrank at these first conflicts and sharp beginnings (as it was no marvel) yet many more came on with fresh courage and greatly animated others." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 2.

...This is the same experience the martyrs of the coliseums in Rome experienced. The more died, the more were converted. The more Christians were persecuted, the more the faith spread. The blood of martyred Christians waters the seeds of faith their faithful witness, even to death, planted. The enemies of the church employ their weapon of persecution thinking to discourage and quench the fire of truth, but God turns it all on head making it a tool to bring many more to Him as truth is broadcast-ed through their very endeavors!

...5. This chapter being so short, and so sorrowful, there really isn't anything worth listing in this section. One can hardly object to the record of a sea voyage, or tales of woe.

...6. Next time; life in the Low Countries.

16 September 2009

Chapter 1 ; On the "Separatist Interpretation of the Reformation in England", 1550-1607

...1.Thus begins chapter one in Bradford's Diary. These diary entries are recorded long after the events they attempt to explain. Bradford begins with an explanation, he wants to immortalize the reasons the Puritans left England for Holland, and eventually the New World. In his own words - "Of Plymouth Plantation. And first of the occasion and inducements thereunto; the which, that I may truly unfold, I must begin at the very root and rise of the same. The which I shall endeavour to manifest in a plain style, with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things; at least as near as my slender judgment can attain to the same."

...Phew, If Bradford's judgment is "slender" then I dare not wonder what my margin will be.

...The time frame in which he wrote these words is roughly 1630 A.D. But the events he is writing about happened nearly eighty years before, long before William Bradford was born. He begins with mention of the reformation, persecution under Bloody Mary, and in general the "Separatist Interpretation of the Reformation in England", the chapter title.

...2. Define your Terms!

Separatist; NOT a person with a vendetta against fat in their creamer. This term actually means " one of a group of 16th and 17th century English Protestants preferring to separate from rather than to reform the Church of England." Webster Dictionary

...B. Saint; "Bradford uses the word saint in the Biblical sense, as one of God's chosen people, or a church member, not one of those canonized by the Roman Catholic Church" Samuel Morison.

...C. Professor; You're probably thinking a teacher at college or something, but this term was actually used by the Puritans in general to mean one who professed Christianity.

...3. What exactly happened in this chapter? I know that's sort of what I was thinking half way through, after all, it doesn't bring us up to date with anything happening to the Puritans now. (Which was then) In reality this is a very important chapter. It explains the reformations roots in England, why it started, and how it grew. Interestingly enough Bradford does not being with pointing fingers, nor does he begin with exact dates and facts. He begins with a very biblical form, explaining still without names, the persecution and terrors the gospel and its followers endure during these hard times.

..."Ever since the first breaking out of the light of the gospel in our honourable nation of England, what wars and oppositions ever since, Satan hath raised, maintained and continued against the Saints, from time to time, in one sort or other." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 1.

...He goes on to compare the modern saints with martyrs of old, during the time of the Roman emperors, and mentions the bloody Arian controversies; quoting Socrates Ecclesiastical History to back up the comparison. Then, in one breathtaking sweep, he pulls the cloud of ambiguity away from our eyes revealing a name, a time placement. Bloody Mary. Yet he does not criticize Mary herself. Perhaps he will in some later chapter, but here he merely points out that Satan sought whatever and whoever he could as tools to accomplish his age old labor, to destroy the true church of God. Bradford also mentions that the Prince of Darkness tactics have changed, instead of seeking to utterly annihilate the church, he has chosen in these days subtler tactics. Hear Ye, Hear Ye, this following quote of Bradford's is no less valuable to us today, if not more so!

..."When as that old serpent could not prevail by those fiery flames and other his cruel tragedies, which by his instruments he put into practice everywhere in the days of Queen Mary and before, he then began another kind of war and went more closely to work; not only to oppugn but even to ruinate and destroy the kingdom of Christ by more secret and subtle means, by kindling the flames of contention and sowing the seeds of discord and bitter enmity amongst the professors and, seeming reformed, themselves." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 1

...Truly we should lend ear to this warning. Now we know when Satan switched his tactics !(at least according to Bradford) But I'll leave this for section 4.

...Onward into the meatier portions of this chapter! We now come to mention of Mr. Fox, renowned as the man who wrote Fox's Book of Martyrs. It is always interesting to read contemporaries comment on each other! Bradford begins to list the grievances Christianity is suffering from, namely, discord over the order of worship.To paraphrase his words "One side" labored to have right worship of God in church, simple, no service books, strict adherence to the listed customs in Scripture, and keeping only the offices of Pastors, Teachers, Elders, etc. (We must I assume he forgot to mention the first ban on electric guitars being used in worship, no wait, they weren't invented yet. )

...The Catholic, or rather, "Anglican Church of England", basically the Roman Catholic Church under new government and with some minor adjustments, "Through many colors and pretences" went on to oppose the Separatists, or Puritans as they came to be called. Eventually they began to bring false charges of "rebellion and high treason" concerning the Puritans, hoping to get the attention of the Monarchy. Persecution was hot in many places.

...It appears the Puritans waited out the tide for awhile, hoping. But when Queen Mary died the contention did not. Bradford explains that many Puritans who had fled under Bloody Mary, now "returning into England under gracious Queen Elizabeth" received promotions and the like, and were for a time in favor. Then, of course, jealousy arose. Plots and devices were used to paint the Puritans in a bad light and the Queen and State were aroused. Indeed, it is not crystal clear in the text when these plots truly affected the Puritans, but they almost certainly did so increasingly after Elizabeth's reign, during James I.

...As with Mary, Bradford's personal opinion concerning Elizabeth herself is withheld. I find it interesting that he does not lay blame on either queen, very gracefully mentioning the pressure and plots laid around them. Was this a biblical conviction concerning speaking against the authorities that God had put in place? It certainly wasn't a custom of the time, Knox's thundering treatise titled "The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women" had been published scarcely a century before. It leaves one to wonder. However he does give Elizabeth the title "gracious", unlike Mary.

...Apparently the Anglican church's ploy was to keep certain "divers harmless ceremonies" to win the weak and superstitious, for "though it were to be wished that divers things were reformed, yet this was not the season for it." At length more and more corruption crept back into the church, according to Bradford, until zealous Christians began to be persecuted once more. During time of James I, things had become intolerable. As a last resort the true professors "shook off this yoke of antichristian bondage" and made a covenant to be a people set apart. Thus begins the history of the pilgrims that sailed in the Mayflower and landed on Americas soil. But before setting out for such a distant shore, they set their sights on a place closer to home, Holland. Chapter one ends in the year 1607.

A picture of the house where William Bradford was born...

"When as that old serpent could not prevail by those fiery flames and other his cruel tragedies, which by his instruments he put into practice everywhere in the days of Queen Mary and before, he then began another kind of war and went more closely to work; not only to oppugn but even to ruinate and destroy the kingdom of Christ by more secret and subtle means, by kindling the flames of contention and sowing the seeds of discord and bitter enmity amongst the professors and, seeming reformed, themselves." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 1

The following verse from 1 Peter comes to mind, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. " 1 Peter 5:8-9 The enemy NEVER rests, he wants the church to fall. He wants Christs blood to be poured out in vain, he cannot accept defeat. The Prince of darkness refuses to see that God has already won the victory, that all the Lords purposes will come to pass.

...With this in mind it is ever important that we set a guard over our hearts, and watch carefully the road beneath our feet. In these days, as in the time of the Puritans, it would appear that the deadliest weapons in Satan's arsenal are; divisions and dissensions within the church; and the temptation of an "easier" walk with God.

...I'm not saying we should allow heresies in the church for the sake of peace, but it is a fact that ever since the reformation the church has become increasingly divided with different factors warring among themselves. What warrants leaving a fellowship of believers or breaking off into new church bodies? When do we gracefully shrug something off as simply the conviction of a 'weaker' brother, but not worth splitting over? These are grave questions we must all ask ourselves as we prayerfully seek to walk in the fullness of the gospel and maintain the peace and purity of the people of God. I don't pretend to have any of the answers, I'm just asking questions.

...The second matter of importance is the temptation of an "easier" or "worldier" walk with the King of Kings. God doesn't want us to come half way to the cross. He isn't seeking lukewarm lovers, He wants a bride wholly committed to Him. We are a church of sinners, that's why we're in the church, we recognize our need for the Savior. It is not possible for us to earn our own salvation, or be perfect, but we are called to "be holy" as He is holy, and to advance in our stages of sanctification. The christian walk begins at conversion, but it doesn't end there.

...Its so easy to say with our mouth, "There but by the grace of God", and then turn around and abuse the grace we proclaim. Remember Romans 6:1-4, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." I think this is what the Puritans were trying to do, "Walk in the newness of life."

...Later on in the chapter Bradford states "[the Anglicans bringing many excuses] to stop the mouths of the more godly, to bring them on to yield to one ceremony after another, and one corruption after another; by these wiles beguiling some and corrupting others till at length they began to persecute all the zealous professors in the land both by word and deed, if they would not submit to their ceremonies and become slaves to them and their popish trash, which have no ground in the Word of God, but are relics of that man of sin." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 1

...Relics of that man of sin. What is Bradford referring to? Here are the next couple verses from our passage in Romans, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. " Romans 6: 5-6

...And what is Bradford talking about? The extra biblical practices used in worship by the church at large then. The Puritans wanted a clean break from Catholicism, and they went to great ends to ensure it. This brings up another question; what practices did the Puritans preach and or maintain that were extra biblical? Though I believe their hearts were in the right place, it was hard to completely reform the church with such controversies going on at the time. For example, the Puritans adamantly opposed the theater, which in these days might equate to going to the movies. Why? Mainly because at the time many of the plays were about immorality, or encouraged inappropriate behavior. (Most not all) But no where in Scripture does it say that we are not allowed to act, or go to dramas. We are commanded to guard our eyes and hearts, which would mean reading movie reviews and asking ourselves if the entertainment would be profitable. But the Puritans called all drama wrong. And it was more than a conviction, it was a teaching.

...Is this right? Should the church elders be allowed to decide what is right and wrong for their members outside the evident commands in Scripture? How much Christian liberty would we have today if every time someone wanted to watch a movie, (a good movie), they were ostracized by the church?

...So we see the Puritans weren't perfect. Their stance on drama was just one of the more legalistic approaches they took in their day which helped to raise hard feelings against them, and ended up possibly doing more harm than good to the body of God.

...To end I think we can sum things up like this. What can we learn from the Puritans example? Our innocence and purity in the ways of the world are priceless and to be holy and bring glory to God is of utmost importance. But human dogmatism and pride can get in the way of holy ambition. Fear is another corrupter of faithful works that brings out the worst in us. We need to remain diligent and awake, carefully searching the Scriptures as the Bereans did, neither living in sin or stifling each others walk with extra biblical requirements. (whether "popish" or "puritanical") Beware the enemy!

5. Apparently Bradford had a rather "English" biased view of the reformations history! I came across this quote on the first page and had to do three double takes to determine if he had just said what I thought he said!

..."It is well known unto the godly and judicious, how ever since the first breaking out of the light of the gospel in or honorable nation of England, (which was the first of nations whom the Lord adorned therewith after the gross darkness of popery which had covered and overspread the Christian world), what wars and oppositions ever since, Satan hath raised, maintained and continued against the Saints..." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter 1

...Correct me if I'm wrong, but, wasn't Germany the first nation for the light of the true gospel to break upon? He can't be talking about government, that I would understand, because he stated in the first part of the sentence the "light of the gospel", which is what the Lord supposedly first adorned England with! These things are funny....To me anyways.

6. Thanks for bearing with me in this long, somewhat tedious, post! Next time I'm going to keep things a little more succinct, as we enter the arena of "Holland"!

The Layout

...To keep things simple for readers I am going to attempt to follow the same layout every post. As follows;

1. This section will introduce the chapters title, time frame, and introductory notes. It may even include some historical background of interest. As evident by the color, this section will be BLUE.

2. Very important! This part is devoted entirely to defining terms that may, or may not, come up. Enjoy! (Color Key, RED)

3. The BLACK and white of things. Section three will contain actual facts, quotes, and key points in the chapter.

4. Here I will preach at you, or root for you, which ever you prefer, trying to hone in on the moral dilemmas, valuable lessons to be gleaned, and touch on the Puritans examples; whether good or ill. I'm running out of colors, so PURPLE will alert you when its time to rebury the old man - he has a way of popping up and making us look proud doesn't he?

5. The funnies and interesting little tidbits aside from the big picture. Here you can laugh, or debate, all you want. If you prefer the original spelling of burden, burthen, and resent the change, you can quibble about it here. (Along with Honour instead of Honor, Powre instead of Pour, and so on...) Also included will be the inevitable rabbit trails such as, but not limited to, Bradford's opinions on rulers and governments. (Color key, ORANGE. A good protestant color.)

6. And finally we come to section six. It can be summed up in two very succinct words; SNEAK PEAK. Color key? Do we really need one? This section will be ITALICIZED.

...The numbers will also be included for even better reference. Can you tell I'm worried my readers might drown in the pool of verbalization? or get lost in the trees of redundant repetition? Beware!

...Yesterday I started reading William Bradford's history of Plymouth Plantation. During study time I had a great idea, why not make an online series of notes on the diary?

..."Of Plymouth Plantation" is a rare firsthand account of the struggles and victories one little band of faithful pilgrims endured in the arduous journey from persecution to freedom. It is full of insights into our roots, sacrifices every faithful christian should stand for, and miraculous escapes from the very maws of death. William Bradford began penning the diary after the Mayflower landed on Massachusetts shore and continued to write after the fact, covering time from 1620 - 1647 A.D. Anyone wanting to understand this godly man and the puritans of New England should not skip this book! (Despite its often archaic prose, spelling, and impressive size!)

...Included will be juicy little tidbits like the following;

...Bradford's opinions concerning "gracious Queen Elizabeth", to use his own words.

...The state of England's reformation at the time, compared to Scotland, Geneva, France, and the Netherlands.

...Good old Puritan common sense!

...Be checking for more in the next couple days!

02 July 2009

William I, the Silent Father of the United Republic of the Netherlands

A man ahead of his time and a ruler of unusual discretion and judgment; William I, called The Silent, and Prince of Orange, was the founding Father of the Netherlands. His influence in establishing the Low Lands as a Republic can be likened to that of George Washington in the United States. His life is one of excitement, mixed loyalties, betrayals, and passion.

William was born in the year 1553, to a noble family living in Dillenburg Germany. His parents were Lutherans and raised young William, along with his eleven younger siblings, in the reformed faith. An aunt in France owned the estates of Orange and when she died childless William inherited the lands and the title “Prince of Orange”. There was just one catch, the will stipulated that William must become Catholic to receive his inheritance. At about this time the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V took a liking to William, that is, to everything but Williams Protestantism. Probably due to purely political reasons young William renounced his faith and became a member of the Catholic Church. But he never forgot the teachings of his childhood.

Charles V depended on William for everything. It is said that when the old emperor abdicated the throne in favor of his son Phillip II in 1556, he leaned his aging frame upon Williams’s strong arm. Charles had tried to discourage Protestantism in his empire, including the Netherlands. Phillip wanted to eradicate the heretics from the face of the earth.

William lost much of his influence in court when Charles resigned. Philip was suspicious of Williams loyalties and rarely kept him informed in matters of state. In 1559 Phillip appointed William Stadholder in the Netherland provinces Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, and Burgundy. Perhaps it was here and now that Williams’s sympathies for the Protestant cause became to emerge. Phillips cruelties and the independent spirit of the Netherlanders were clashing during Williams rule. Finally William could take no more, in 1567 he retreated to his lands in Naussa France to pray and rethink his loyalties. Meanwhile Phillip raised a Spanish army to crush the heretics in the Low Lands.

Like a determined tide William returned in 1568 to take up the cause of religious freedom in the Netherlands. He raised an army and challenged Phillip, who must have felt vindicated in his former suspicions. Time after time the Netherlanders were beaten, but, the country itself was on their side.

The Netherlands is a country wrested from the sea. Patiently the Dutch people toiled to raise dikes and build farms in the low lying countryside. During the eighty year war for independence William advised the people to pull down their dikes and let the sea in. Homes and dikes could be rebuilt but the loss of their childrens future liberty could not be repaid. So the people let the sea fight their battles, and indeed, it was on the sea that the Dutch could not be bested. They were called the “Beggars of the Sea” and their navies were a threat the Spanish could not reckon with. Gradually the Spanish were driven back.

In 1579 William the Silent and the representatives of seven Northern provinces signed the Union of Utrecht, a compact which bound them together for better or worse. Despite his love for the Protestant cause William insisted that religious freedom be given to Catholics as well as Protestants within the new Republic. He was a man ahead of times, realizing that neither faith was going to go away – the problem of conscience was here to stay.

Phillip did not realize this important idea. He was stuck in the past of Christendom, believing like so many that the Catholic Church meant a church headed by the authority of Rome instead of a catholic body of believers in many countries with many beliefs but one head, Jesus Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture. In 1581 Phillip put a price on Williams head, 25,000 guilders. A Frenchman named Balthasar Gerard took up the challenge, and, in 1584, put a bullet through Williams chest. The last words of the Father of the Fatherland were “My God, have pity on my soul. My God, have pity on this poor people.” The Champion of the Netherlands was dead.

01 July 2009

A Brief History of the Netherlands; 1100-1600 A.D.

The history of the Netherlands is an intriguing one. Its unique geography, location, and political state combined to create the first modern Republic. Lets quickly overview some of the major events that took place between 1100 and 1600 A.D. in the Netherlands and see how they impacted this truly amazing country.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Netherlands, or Low Lands as they are often called, developed a keen interest in trade. The people were hard working and industrious, reclaiming much of their land from the wild North Sea by means of dikes and dams. They fished and built ships for other countries, and then became interested in shipping and importing textiles. Quickly the cities grew fat with profit and began to question their nobles authority over them. Many cities became city states and were given the right to have defensible walls, markets, toll rights, storage rights (the right to store and exclusively trade particular goods), and mint rights. The inhabitants of cities were not subject to liegelords and had more personal freedom than country folk concerning travel and the choice of religion.

Then, in 1517, a small paper nailed to a church door in Germany by a monk called Martin Luther sparked a religious reformation that impacted the Netherlands cataclysmically. The Protestant Reformation was just that, a protest against the Catholic church’s teaching and a call for reformation in Church doctrine. This coincided nicely with the growing resentment the Netherlands had against their foreign overlords – who were Catholic. In the early sixteenth century Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, was handed control of the Netherlands by the Dukes of Bourgogne. He in turn passed it to his son Phillip II of Spain. By this time the majority of the Netherlands were Protestants, more than that, they were Calvinist Protestants.

Phillip wanted to wipe out the Protestants in his domain, and the Netherlanders had already been insubordinate to him by spreading anti-catholic riots in their country during 1566. The monarch sent Spanish troops in 1568 to squelch the stocky Dutch. The eighty year war for independence which lasted until 1648 had begun.

Here one of my personal favorite military leaders enters the action, William I, Prince of Orange, also called William the Silent. The Prince of Orange was born in Germany and eventually, through many lines of successions and unintelligible twists in royal family trees (latin to the uninitiated), he became Stadholder in the provinces of provinces of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht. I could write a book about William I, but it will need to wait for my next paper. The Prince was a loyal Protestant and abhorred the atrocities committed against the reformers in the Low Lands under Phillip II. He rallied the country behind him and engaged in war to defend and liberate the Low Lands from foreign interference. The Southern provinces (Belgium today) eventually returned to Spanish rule, but the remaining seven Northern provinces formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579 pledging to uphold one another in the fight for freedom. On July 26, 1581, the Northern Provinces declared themselves free from Spain and formed what has come to be called “The Dutch Republic” or the Netherlands. This independence was finally recognized by the Spanish in 1648. The Golden Age of the Netherlands had dawned.

03 June 2009

Germany's Politics and the Reformation

In the early fifteen hundreds the Roman Catholic Church held immense influence over nations and their rulers. Until the Protestant Reformation Christians were exclusively Catholic. People believed there was no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church and feared excommunication by the Pope in Rome. Because of this rulers were hesitant to make decisions without the Popes approval. It was their eternal soul at stake! In Germany however, unique political conditions were ripe for change.

Germany was divided into many territories called "Duchies". Each Duchy had its own prince or Duke as ruler. Over all the duchies presided the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Many rulers resented Romes control over their civil duties and the German rulers were no exception. And added to the Popes influence, German Duchies had to worry about Charles V. All these things came into play when a monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517.

Political power and economics greatly influenced the success of the Reformations beginning. Dukes and Princes saw it as an opportunity to break away from Rome, both Emperor and Pope. The common people were eager to follow their princes because they no longer feared excommunication, salvation by faith alone had captured their hearts. ( And the Reformation encouraged the value of individuals before God, peasants too were a priesthood of believers.) Germany became a hotbed of action as wars and treaties came and went. Through it all the divided and distinct duchies were important in allowing the reformed faith to grow. When one duchy declared itself Protestant, the reformers fled there. If a duchy wavered or clung to Catholicism, Catholics migrated to that area. As the Reformation spread "Nationalism also played a part as countries turned Protestant while fighting to be free from Roman Catholic Countries." Streams of Civilization Vol 1, pg 377. The world was a sorry mess. Neither side is blameless in the bloodbaths that took place.

But, through it all we can see clearly Gods hand at work. Because of Germany's political state Luther's convictions were given time to develop and grow. Soon other nations took interest and the issues spread.In 1555 the "Peace of Augsburg" ended fighting in Germany when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V signed a treaty allowing each ruler to decide the faith of his subjects. In some ways this was little better than before because individuals were still often persecuted for their convictions. There was more freedom than before but the world was still a far cry from giving every man the right to choose his own religious beliefs based on conscience. But it was a step in the right direction.

Germany continued to uphold the peace treaty until 1806. It was a new concept of state sovereignty; also Duchies were separated by boundaries of faith and territory lines, a practice called Partition. The world was changing.

13 April 2009

Three Cities: Tenochtitlan, London, and Madrid

In 1520 Hernando Cortes and his conquistadors entered the capitol city of the Aztecs. It was huge, covering around 10 Kilometers of swampy land and boasting at least 200,000 inhabitants, more than most European cities of that time. A Spanish soldier called Bernal diaz del Castillo said the following about the city the conquistadors entered.

When we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments (...) on account of the great towers and cues and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream? (...) I do not know how to describe it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain[2]


Fourteenth century Aztecs had reclaimed the land from the lake and built a city similar to Venice upon it. Most of the city could be traversed by canoe as well as on foot. The Aztecs called their city Tenochtitlan (tay-nohch-TEE-tlan), which translated means "the place of the cactus stone". In contrast to European cities of the time Tenochtitlan was meticulously clean, free of pestilence, and well organized. The following is a list with links for source reference concerning the Architectural and Hygienic advancements of Tenochtitlan compared to London and Madrid.

1. The Aztec Emperor employed 1,000 men to clean the streets every day. These were the historic forerunners of our modern day garbage men :) "Garbage boats" went from house to house carrying away refuse and human waste to be disposed of properly and put to good use as recycled crop fertilizer. Many Aztecs had their own private latrines, something

2. The Aztecs reclaimed land from the swamp by building "chinimpas" .

[Chinampas] were made by staking out narrow, rectangular strips in marshy lakes. Narrow canals were built between them for canoes to pass along.Each chinampa was built up with layers of thick water vegetation cut from the surface of the lake and mud from the bottom of the lake. They were piled up like mats to make the plots. Willow trees were planted around the edge of each chinampa to make it more secure. DK Eyewittnes Books: Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas.

Lake Texcoco had a depth of about 13 feet at its deepest part, which made the Chinampas possible.
The primary chinampas crops were maize, beans, squash, amaranth, tomatoes, and chilies, although chinampas were also used to grow flowers. Wikipedia The Aztecs also built houses on chinampa plots.

A modern day Chinampa plot...

3. Tenochtitlan had a fresh mountain water available to its citizens thanks to a dike built in 1453 A.D. which restrained the swampy marsh waters while keeping spring fed fresh water around the city. It also had two huge aqueduct's built of terra cotta which ran into the city. The Aztecs were crazy about cleanliness, all of its citizens, rich and poor, washed every day. This overall good hygiene eliminated most of the problems European cities were dealing with at the time, plague and pestilence.


London has its roots in ancient time. The Romans originally built it on the river Thames at around 50 A.D. It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, and survives to this day as one of the most important city centers of the world. For this comparison we will be looking at London in the 1500 hundreds around the time Tenochtitlan was discovered by Europeans.

1. London had a poor sewage system for years. Human waste and garbage's of all descriptions were tossed out of windows onto passerby's heads. There were no indoor latrines and few hygiene precautions. Over time the Thames river became a "dead" river as a result to the extreme amounts of filth tossed into it.

2. Not only did London lack in the sewage department, its inhabitants were less then clean themselves. Most Europeans of the time thought that taking baths would wash away the body's protective covering and upset the humors. As a result people rarely bathed more than once a year. Outbreaks of plague, including the Black Death, and other diseases were common due to the peoples uncleanliness and living conditions.

3. It is no wonder that the Spaniards were amazed when they entered Tenochtitlan and found it contained more than 200,000 inhabitants, London itself did not have more than 75,000. Not only did the Aztec city have a larger population, they also maintained higher living standards which made for one bright beautiful city!


Another large and growing city in Europe was Madrid. Originally a Muslim city Madrid was taken by Spain during the Holy Wars and became the capitol when Phillip II moved his court there in 1561. Today it is the 3rd most populous municipality in the European Union. Wikipedia

We can sum up for Madrid that it was essentially as advanced as London in the 1500dreds, possibly less. Its population was certainly smaller, being around 40,000 people.

When Phillip moved his court to Madrid in 1561 the city saw a huge increase in population which resulted in a shortage of living space and proper sewage. It has been called the filthiest city in Europe at that time.

In Conclusion:

This comparison has been conducted to show the differences of living standards between two cultures, European and Aztec /Mesoamerican. It does not reflect on their religious beliefs, nor should we base our opinions of a race on its citizens personal hygiene standards. However it does prove the Aztecs were more than a "savage" race, they had a supieror civilization and minds able to learn. Europeans razed a great city to the ground, and lost the advantages they might have had in sharing the gospel in their lust after gold. If anything the story of Tenochtitlan shows the depravity of a supposedly "enlightened" people, who used their Christianity as a cloak for vice and an excuse for enslaving others. It is a dark blot in the history of the Kingdom of God.

12 February 2009

The End of the World

...When the Roman Empire fell in 476 A.D, Christians and Pagans alike felt the tremble of its death throes. For centuries Christianity had suffered persecution from the Empire. Then under Constantine it had been elevated to the religion of Rome. Now, with barbarian hordes swarming the city, every Christian man and woman must have been asking the same question – why?

...Christianity was born in the Roman world. Because of Rome the gospel had spread hastily on sturdy roads in the universal Greek tongue. The world was one unified country; the Christians had felt the need to do the impossible task of raising Christianity to the highest circles of Rome’s society – without abandoning the masses in their simple faith. Every obstacle was overcome in time until Rome itself became the stable and unifying power of Christianity. What could not be accomplished with Rome at the Churches back? It was the fulfillment of a dream.

...Then the barbarians struck. The Empire was already weak – for centuries she had been spiraling downward with little hope of return to her former glory. She was spent, both politically and economically. Despite all of Diocletian and Constantine’s reforms the Empire could not withstand the nomadic push of spreading civilization. Christians watched in horror as “barbarian” people, uneducated in anything but war, took away the kingdom that had just become theirs. Was the blood of the martyrs wasted? What would become of Christianity now? Would they have to start all over again?

...Surely the verses from Thessalonians 5:2-3 came to mind, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” When Rome fell it was a terrible destruction – and probably felt like the end of the world. Rome had been the world’s peace and safety. For centuries Pax Romana had reigned in the lands.

..But in this as in all things God was accomplishing His will. When Rome fell it shook everyone to their core. No one could walk away unchanged. To the Pagan Roman it brought either despair which leads to death, or a renewed search for meaning which led them to Christ. For the Barbarian it offered the opportunity for civilization and most importantly their encounter with Christ; it is amazing how many Goths and Vandals responded to the power of the gospel – they too were hungry for spiritual food. The Christians themselves learned the hard lesson of faith in difficult circumstances, faith which many of them may have begun have in the Empire instead of Christ. The fall of Rome challenged them anew in their search for the souls of men and the establishment of a heavenly kingdom in the midst of earthly disorder.