William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

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Farewell Letter of Pastor John Robinson


(Read onboard the Mayflower to the passengers prior to departure from
England)

Loving and Christian Friends,

I do heartily and in the Lord salute you all as being they with whom
I am present in my best affection, 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, where 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 concerneth your present
state and condition, both severally and jointly, yet have I thought
it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation unto them who
run already; if not because you need it, yet because I owe it in
love and duty. And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance
with our God, especially for our sins known, and generally for our
unknown trespasses; so doth the Lord call us in a singular manner
upon occasions of such difficulty and danger sa lieth upon you, to a
both more narrow search and careful reformation of your ways in His
sight; let He, calling to remembrance our 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, sin 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 in live 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 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!

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 charity to cover offenses, or wisdom duly to
weigh human frailty; or lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites
as Christ our Lord teacheth (Matthew 7:1,2,3), 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 in societies, which have nourished this touchy
humor.

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. And if taking of offense causelessly or
easily at men's doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more
heed is to be taken that we take not offense at God Himself, which
yet we certainly do so oft as we do murmur at His providence in our
crosses, or bear impatiently such afflictions as wherewith He
pleaseth to visit us. Store up, therefore, patience against that
evil day, without which we take offense at the Lord Himself in His
holy and just works.

A fourth 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 deadly plague of your both common
and special comfort all retiredness of mind for proper advantage,
and all singularly affected any manner of way. Let ever man repress
in himself and the whole body in each person, as so many rebels
against the common good, all private respects of men's selves, not
sorting with the general conveniency. And as men are careful not to
have a new house shaken with any violence before it be well settled
and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much
more careful that the house of God, which you are and are to be, be
not shaken with unnecessary novelties or other oppositions at the
first settling thereof.

Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst
yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons
of special eminency above the rest, to be chosen by you into office
of government; let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in
choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the
common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and
obedience in their lawful administrations, not beholding in them the
ordinariness of their persons, but God's ordinance for your good;
not being like the foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat
than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of
the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the
Lord's power and authority which the magistrate beareth, is
honorable, in how means persons soever. And this duty you both may
the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform,
because you are at least for the present to have only them for your
ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that
work.

Sundry other things of importance I could put you in mind of, and of
those before mentioned in more words, but I will not so far wrong
your godly minds as to think you heedless of these things, there
being also divers among you so well able to admonish both themselves
and others of what concerneth them. These few things therefore, and
the same in few words I do earnestly commend unto your care and
conscience, joining therewith my daily incessant prayers unto the
Lord, that He who hath made the heavens and the earth, the sea and
all rivers of water, and whose providence is over all His works,
espeically over all His dear children for good, would so guide and
guard you in your ways, as inwardly by His Spirit, so outwardly by
the hand of His power, as that both you and we also, for and with
you, may have after matter of praising His name all the days of your
and our lives. Fare you well in Him in whom you trust, and in whom I
rest.

An unfeigned wellwiller of your happy success in this hopeful
voyage,

John Robinson


 

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