Saturday, October 7, 2006

A Letter From the 17th Century

Leslie and I wanted to post something tonight, so she dictated most of Pastor John Robinson's Farewell Letter to the Pilgrims to me, from memory - punctuation and all!

While we were taking a walk the other evening, Leslie started reciting Pastor Robinson's letter while pretending to write it on a railing.

(She can also recite Patrick Henry's Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death speech from start to finish - all seven-and-a-half minutes of it!)

Gesturing over the Harbor, with a little help from Shannon there on the left
"...King George's warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land...."
-excerpt from Patrick Henry's speech

Pastor John Robinson (1575-1625) was a Puritan minister in Holland. This letter was written to the small group of Pilgrims which was leaving on the Mayflower from Holland for America in 1620. (How's that for prepositional phrases?)

A note from Leslie:

I have really enjoyed memorizing this letter, which I found on Vision Forum's website. The first time I read it, I hardly understood anything Pastor Robinson was saying. However, it looked like a good memory project [note from Lauren: I'll never understand why she likes those massive "memory projects" so much!], so I decided to start memorizing it! As I began to memorize, I also began to understand more of what the letter was saying. You will notice that Pastor Robinson fills about half of his letter with advice on how to handle offenses. I can see why he spent so much time on offenses because a small group of people like the Pilgrims could so easily have been divided into discordant factions. Today, many churches and friendships are split too easily over offenses. It's important that we follow God's instructions given in Matthew 18 and elsewhere on how to handle offenses, and that we avoid giving offense whenever possible.

As you read this, consider Pastor Robinson's wise advice: ... we are carefully to provide for peace with all men ... how imperfect is the work of grace in that person who lacks charity to cover offenses ... persons ready to take offense either lack charity to cover offenses, or wisdom to properly take into account human frailty ... we must take care not to take offense at God himself, which we do when we murmur at His providence in our burdens ...

Pastor John Robinson taking leave of the Pilgrims

"Loving Christian friends, I do heartily and in the Lord salute you all, as being they with whom I am present in my best affections,
and most earnest longings after you, though I be constrained for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say constrained, God knowing how willingly, and much rather than otherwise, I would have borne my part with you in this first brunt, were I not by strong necessity held back for the present. Make account of me in the meanwhile, as of a man divided in myself with great pain, and as, natural bonds set aside, having my better part with you. And, though I doubt not but in your godly wisdoms, you both foresee and resolve upon that which concerns your present state and condition, both severally [individually] and jointly, yet have I thought it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation to them who run already, if not because you need it, but because I owe it in love and duty. And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for sins known, and generally for our unknown trespasses, so doth the Lord call us in a singular manner upon occasion of such difficulty and danger as lies upon you to a both more narrow search and careful reformation of your ways in His sight, least He, calling to remembrance sins forgotten by us or unrepented of, take advantage against us, and in judgment leave us for the same to be swallowed up in one danger or other; whereas, on the contrary, sins being taken away by earnest repentance, and the pardon thereof from the Lord sealed up unto a man's conscience by His Spirit, great shall be his security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses, with happy deliverance from all evil, whether or in life or in death.

"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 lies, 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, says Christ. And if offense in the unseasonable [inappropriate] use of things in themselves indifferent [neither good nor bad in themselves], be more to be feared than death itself, as the Apostle teaches, how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honor of God nor love of man are 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 imperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person who wants [lacks] charity to cover a multitude of offenses as the Scriptures speak. Neither are you to be exhorted to this grace only upon the common grounds of Christianity, which are, that persons ready to take offense either want [lack] charity to cover offense, or wisdom duly to weigh human frailty, or lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites, as Christ our Lord teaches, as indeed in my own experience, few or none have been found which sooner give offense than such as easily take it, neither have they ever proved sound and profitable members of societies, which have nourished this touchy humor. But besides these, there are diverse other 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; least when such things fall out in men and women as ye suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them, which does 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, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. And if taking of offense causelessly or easily at men's doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more care must be taken that we take not offense at God himself; which yet we surely do so often as we do murmur at His providence in our crosses, or bear impatiently such burdens as wherewith He pleases to visit us. Store up therefore patience against the evil day without which we do murmur at the Lord himself in His holy and just works.

"Another thing there is carefully to be provided for: to wit, that with your common employments you join common affections truly bent upon the general good, avoiding as a
deadly plague of your both common and special interests all retiredness of mind for proper advantage, or any singularly affected any manner of way...."
-Pastor John Robinson, 1620

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