« AnteriorContinuar »
It is the design of the Congregational Board of Publication to publish, not only the writings of eminent men relating to Christian doctrine, but such books, experimental and historical, as give a practical illustration of the influence of these doctrines upon those who embrace them. With this view the Society have selected for 'publication, the New England's Memorial, a time-honored book, and long accredited as an impartial history of the first half century of the Pilgrim Fathers and the Pilgrim churches. The life and character of the writer and his public station were such, that from the first, the public mind was prepared to give full credit to his statements. Many facts and circumstances, not known, or not noticed by him, and now considered as essential to a full knowledge and illustration of the religious character of the Pilgrim Fathers, have been collected from other sources, and are inserted in the notes and appendix of this edition.
It had come to be pretty generally known that Governor Bradford had written a history of the Pilgrims, and of the colony from 1602 to 1647, not only from what the author of the Memorial says, but from the testimony of Governor Hutchinson, who used it in writing his history, as also of Rev. Mr. Prince, who used it in compiling his annals. It contained 270 pages quarto, and must have been of great value,
but the most diligent search of historians and antiquarians to find it entire, has failed. Mr. Prince says, “ Morton's History from the beginning of the Plymouth people to the end of 1646, is chiefly Gov. Bradford's manuscript abbreviated." An important part of this manuscript was copied by Secretary Morton himself, and placed upon the Church Records at Plymouth, as appears from a marginal note on the first page of said records. A part of this has been published by Rev. Mr. Young, in his Chronicles. We publish in this edition such parts of this record as are not contained in the Memorial, which certainly adds much weight to the statements of Morton, and gives additional interest and authenticity to the pilgrim history. Gov. Bradford's qualifications and character were such that his narrative is fully reliable. "No man stands better than he on the rolls of history, civil or ecclesiastical."
We have added such other articles as seemed desirable to make this volume a complete narrative of the events of the time included, viz.: Gov. Bradford's Dialogue between the young men and ancient men, the two visits of Gov. Winslow to Massasoit, the labors of the early settlers for the instruction of the Indians, the Faith and Order of the Leyden-Plymouth Church, and large extracts from Rev. Mr. Hunter's recent work, showing more conclusively than has heretofore been done, the early residence of Brewster and Bradford, and the location of their first place of separate worship.
The Memorial was first published in 1669, in the lifetime of the author, Nathaniel Morton, who, three years after the settlement of Plymouth, being then eleven years of age, came thither from his native town in the north of England, with his father and mother. She was the sister of Gov. Brad. ford.) In 1645, he was elected clerk of the Colony Court, and held that office forty years, till the time of his death.
His work was printed at Cambridge in a small quarto volume, and the Colony of Plymouth defrayed part of the expenses. A second edition was printed in Boston in 1721, with a supplement by Josiah Cotton, Esq.; a third in Newport in 1772; a fourth edition at Plymouth, 1826. A fifth edition was prepared by Hon. John Davis, and published in Boston in 1826. We have revised and compared the text of this last with the first edition, and prepared, from the original sources, many new explanatory notes.
Messrs. Thatcher and Higginson, eminent divines, it will be noticed in the original preface, speak of the author as a godly man, and that the work is compiled of truthful matter, and the author acknowledges his indebtedness to the manuscript of Governors Bradford and Winslow, though he himself collected all the papers which he thought could be of any use to the colony.
We have deemed it appropriate and fitting to publish some historical and explanatory account of the principles and polity of their order and the usages of their churches, as embraced and practised by Robinson, his associates and successors, that we may have in the same volume a more extended nar. rative of the principles and motives of these renowned men. And here we acknowledge our indebtedness to the Hon. Zachariah Eddy of Middleboro', for the historical notice of the Leyden Church, which migrated to Plymouth, and its influence in the gathering of similar churches at home and abroad, which, with other important matter, we annex as an appendix to this history. Mr. Eddy has given great attention to this subject for many years, and is well versed in the history of that church, its principles and usages, and the subsequent progress of Independency in England and in this country. We are indebted to him also for some of the notes in this volume.
In regard to their origin, it is not easy to fix upon the precise time when the Puritans first existed as a distinct party. They are called Puritans, who would have the church thoroughly reformed, that is, purged from all those inventions which have been brought into it since the age of the Apostles, and reduced entirely to the Scripture purity.
Bancroft and some others have supposed that the refusal of Hooper to be consecrated in vestments, as the Bishop of Gloucester, marks the era when the Puritans first existed as a separate party.
From documents more recently discovered, it seems that their origin may be traced to the days of Wickliffe.
“ The struggle between the old and the new Theology," says Macauley, "was long and the event was somewhat doubtful. Henry the VIII. attempted to constitute an Anglican Church, differing from the Roman Catholic, on the point of supremacy only. By the agency of Cranmer, a compromise was made, and to this day, the constitution, the doctrines, and the services of the English Church retain the visible marks of the compromise from which she sprang. She occupies a middle position between the churches of Rome and Geneva. The controversy was not yet settled. As the priest of the established church was from interest, from principle, and from passion, zealous for the royal prerog. atives; the Puritan was from interest, from principle, and from passion hostile to them. During the greater part of the reign of Elizabeth, the Puritans in the House of Commons felt no disposition to array themselves in systematic opposition to the government. But the leaven was at work, and the opposition which had, during forty years, been silently gathering and husbanding strength, in the Parliament of 1601, fought its first great battle.
“ The politicaland religious schism which had originated in
the 16th century was, during the first quarter of the 17th century, constantly widening. Theories tending to Turkish despotism were in fashion at Whitehall. Theories tending to republicanism were in favor with a large portion of the House of Commons. The Prelatists who were zealous for prerogative, and the Puritans who were zealous for the privileges of Parliament, regarded each other with animosity."
Those who with the spirit of Wickliffe, Huss, and Calvin, presumed to assert their rights, were met with the same vio. lent opposition as were their prototypes. An Ecclesiastical Court of High Commission was established consisting of forty-four persons, — twelve bishops, and the others privy counsellors, clergymen, and civilians, for the detection and punishment of non-conformity to the established church. Individuals were condemned and hung for distributing tracts on religious liberty. But the Puritans were not to be thus subdued, for they were conscientious and intrepid men.
They could not be compelled by threats, imprisonment, or death, to compromise their principles. Compromise was regarded by them as apostasy. Neither the offer of pardon* nor the pains of a lingering death could induce them to waver or hesitate. They were the implacable adversaries of religious oppression. They admitted of no hierarchy in the church, — of no parliament or king to interpret for them the word of God, which they made their only standard, and, under its guide, conformed their ecclesiastical discipline to republican simplicity. Separate congregations were formed, and secession from the established church was advocated. The government became alarmed, and penalties were inflicted, but all to no purpose, except to give more publicity to the sentiments of the Puritans, and to increase their number, until it was said in Parliament “ that there were in England