The Separatists/Pilgrims made it to Holland and were left alone by the government to worship as their consciences led. So why not stay there? Hadn’t they achieved what they desired? William Bradford, who became their governor at Plymouth for 35 years, was also the historian of the movement during that era. In his History of Plimoth Plantation, he lays out the reasons they decided Holland shouldn’t be their final destination. They were as follows:
- News of their hard life working in the factories kept other Separatists in England from joining them. This lifestyle was very different from the pastoral existence they were used to.
- They were aging prematurely due to this type of work.
- Their children were being lured away from their beliefs. Since the children also had to work under the same conditions, they were questioning the decision of their parents to stand for what they believed. If their beliefs led to this, some of the children reasoned, maybe there’s something wrong with what they believe.
- They had a desire to take the Gospel to another part of the world. The first three reasons were the negative aspects of staying in Holland, while this final reason was a positive one: they might be used of God to spread His Word.
Bradford also writes about the debate they had on whether they should commit to the ocean voyage to the New World. He makes it quite clear that the concerns of many were well-founded—sickness on the trip, their dire finances, ignorance of the New World, the savagery of the natives—and they didn’t make the decision without careful consideration and prayer.
Ultimately, they concluded that even though they might die in the endeavor, if God had called them to do it, they should be obedient. They simply wanted to be faithful to God’s calling. The decision to uproot everything once again was a decision based on faith.
In my next American history post, I’ll examine what it was like for them to make that voyage.