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.