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The Pilgrim's Religious  
                    Beliefs  
  
 Through the years we have held many idea's on what the Pilgrims 
were like. Here is some insight on how and what the Pilgrims 
held as their religious beliefs and way of life. 

John Robinson (1575-1625) was the pastor of the Pilgrims after their  
removal to Holland in 1607-8, and many of his writings  
survive--giving us a direct view of the Pilgrims religious beliefs and  
theology.  

The Pilgrims' separatist movement can be directly traced back to  
John Calvin (1509-1564) and Calvinism, from which also descends  
Puritanism and Presbyterianism.  The Pilgrims' separatist movement  
sprung up from primarily Nottinghamshire, where Richard Clyfton  
and John Robinson, both Cambridge alumni, began their preaching.  
 Beginning in 1604 with the ascention of King James I, the  
persecution of Protestants increased.  Members of Clyfton and  
Robinson's church had to meet secretly, and were hunted continually  
by the authorities--and when caught, thrown in jail.  By 1607, they  
could no longer take the persecution, and made their escape to  
Amsterdam, Holland, and a year later moved to Leyden where they  
established their congregation.  

In addition to John Robinson, William Bradford and Edward  
Winslow have added their own remarks to various theological  
debates of their day.  Below is a basic outline of some of these  
religious beliefs supported and practiced by the Leyden Pilgrims.  
 For those who are interested, the Pilgrims used John Calvin's  
Geneva translation of the Bible, nicknamed the "Breeches Bible".  
The Old English Puritan was such an one, that honored God above  
all, and under God gave every one his due.His first care was to serve  
God, and therein he did not what was good in his own, but inGod's 
sight, making the word of God the rule of his worship. He highly 
esteemed order in the House of God: but would not under color  
of that submit to superstitious rites, which are superfluous, and perish 
in their use.  He was much in prayer; with it he began and closed the  
day. It is he was much exercised in his closet, family and public  
assembly.The the church he did not wholly reject the liturgy, 
 but the corruption of it.  

The Lord's Day he esteemed a divine ordinance, and rest on it  
necessary, so far as it conduced to holiness. He was very  
conscientious in observance of that day as the mart day of the soul 
. He was careful to remember it, to get house,and heart in order for  
it and when it came, he was studious to improve it. He redeems  
the morning from superfluous sleep, and watches the whole day  
over his thoughts and words, not only to restrain them from wickedness, 
but worldliness.  
  

Predestination.  
The Pilgrims believed that before the foundation of the world, God  
predestined to make the world, man, and all things.  He also  
predestined, at that time, who would be saved, and who would be  
damned.  Only those God elected would receive God's grace, and  
would have faith.  There was nothing an individual could do during  
their life that would cause them to be saved (or damned), since God  
had already decided who was going to be saved before the creation  
of the world. However, God would not have chosen blatant sinners  
to be his elect; and therefore those who were godly were likely to be  
the ones God elected to be saved.  

Sacraments and Popery.  
To the Pilgrims, there were only two sacraments: baptism and the  
Lord's Supper.  The other sacraments (Confession, Penance,  
Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Confession, Last Rites) of the  
Catholic and Anglican churches were inventions of man and were  
therefore not Holy.. The sacrament of baptism he received in infancy 
, which he looked back toin age to answer his engagements, and claim 
his privileges. The Lord's Supper he accounted part of his soul's food: 
to which he labored to keep an appetite. The Pilgrims opposed the mass, 
and considered marriage a civil affair (not a religious sacrament). 
 The legitimacy of the pope, the saints, and the church hierarchy was rejected, 
as was the veneration of relics.  Icons and religious symbols such as crosses,  
statues, stain-glass windows, fancy architecture, and other worldly  
manifestations of religion were rejected.  

Church Organization  
The church of the Pilgrims was organized around five officers: pastor,  
teacher, elder, deacon, and deaconess (sometimes called the "church  
widow").  However, none of the five offices was considered essential  
to the church.  The Pastor was an ordained minister whose  
responsibility was to see to the religious life of the congregation.  
 John Robinson was the pastor of the Pilgrims, but was never able to  
get to America before his death in 1625.  The Teacher was also an  
ordained minister who was responsible for the instruction of the  
congregation.  The Pilgrims apparently never had anyone to fill that  
position.  The Elder was a lay-person responsible for church  
government, and he was also the church's eyes and ears, assisting the  
Pastor and Teacher in admonishing the congregation.  
 William Brewster was the Elder for the Plymouth church 
.  The Deacon collected offerings, and attended to the needs 
of the poor and elderly.  John Carver and Samuel Fuller both were 
deacons during their life.  The Deaconess attended the sick and poor,  
and often played the role of mid-wife as well.  The Deaconess of the early  
Plymouth church is not named, but may have been Bridget Fuller.  
 The church building itself had no significance to the Pilgrims, and  
was usually called simply the "meetingplace" or "meetinghouse".  The  
meetinghouse was kept drab, and had no religious depictions or  
icons.  Starting about the summer of 1622, the fort served as the  
Pilgrims meetinghouse.  The Pilgrim men brought loaded guns to  
church in case they were attacked during services.  

Infant Baptism.  
The Pilgrims believed baptism was the sacrament which wiped away  
Original Sin, and was a covenant with Christ and his chosen people  
(as circumcision had been to God and the Israelites), and therefore  
children should be baptized as soon as practical.  .  This was in opposition 
to the Anabaptists, who believed that baptism was essentially an 
initiation ceremony into the churchhood of believers,  
and therefore could only be administered to believing adults who  
understood the meaning of the ceremony.  The Pilgrims believed that  
"Baptism now, as circumcision of old, is the seal of the covenant of  
God".  They further believed that at least one parent must be of the  
faith for the child to be baptized into the church.  

Holy Days and Religious Holidays.  
The Pilgrims faithfully observed the Sabbath, and did not work on  
Sunday.  Even when the Pilgrims were exploring Cape Cod, to the  
Mayflower crew's dismay, they stopped everything and stayed in  
camp on Sunday to keep the Sabbaths.  See: Mourt's Relation  
(1622), chapter 1.  The Pilgrims did not celebrate religious  
holidays--Christmas and Easter being the prime examples.  These  
holidays were invented by man to memorialize Jesus, and are not  
prescribed by the Bible and therefore cannot be Holy.  "It seems too  
much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary  
memorial".  
Marriage.  
The Pilgrims considered marriage a civil affair, not to be handled by  
the church ministers but instead by civil magistrates.  
 Marriage was ordained by God for the benefit of man's natural and 
spiritual life.  Not getting married (and thus remaining a virgin) 
was not considered a sign of piety.  Marriages were considered 
important for two main reasons:  
procreation of children, 
to avoid the sin of adultery. 
 The important characteristics to find in the proper spouse, according to  
Robinson, are  
(1) godliness,  
(2) similarity--in age, beliefs, estate, disposition, inclinations, and affections 
 In the marriage, "the wife is specially required a reverend subjection in all 
lawful things to her husband", and the husband is "to give honour to the wife", 
and the Lord requires "the love of the husband to his wife must be like  
Christ's to his church". He blessed his family morning and evening by the  
word and prayer and took care to perform those ordinances in the best  
season. He brought up his children in the nurture and admonition of the 
Lord and commanded his servants to keep the way of the Lord. 

Education of Children, and Discipline. 
 Christians should be best husbands, best wives, best parents,  
best children, best masters, best servants, best magistrates, best  
subjects, that the doctrine of God might be adorned, not blasphemed. 
The Pilgrims believed that in the child's early years, the mother was  
the most important educator.  But as the child grew, the father  
became the more important figure--from the father they are to learn  
manners, wisdom, and authority.  The Pilgrims believed that children  
needed to be disciplined "with the rod" when necessary, as the Bible  
proclaims in Proverbs 13:24 and 22:15.  Children were also  
expected to learn from the husband's disciplining of his wife--a wife  
was to be disciplined just as the children were disciplined when she  
disobeyed her husband or sinned against God.  
  The Pilgrim's distinction between beating a wife, and disciplining a 
wife, is akin to the modern-day distinction between beating a child  
and spanking a child.  The standard court-administered punishment  
for wife-beating was a public whipping, which is certainly more severe 
than the modern "punishment".  None of the Mayflower passengers were ever  
accused of wife-beating.  Education was thought very important, but  
in early years of the Plymouth Colony there was not enough time or  
qualified individuals to teach.  All children, boys and girls both, were  

taught to read (because reading the Bible was something everyone  
needed to be able to do).  Writing, however, was not taught to girls,  
and in fact many boys never learned to write either.  If the situation  
required, writing was a skill that could be learned fairly easily by  
someone who already knew how to read.  
  
 

 
 
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