Something has been bothering me for the last week or so. I have been wanting to get to the bottom of the issue of the Sabbath from the founding of America. What were the Pilgrims running from? What were they trying to accomplish? Why did YHVH (God) bless this country the way He did? Where the founding fathers of America Hebrew Roots? These are all questions that have been haunting me and now I can honestly say, YES, THEY WERE SABBATH-KEEPERS. This article traces the Pilgrims from England to Holland. The Pilgrims were persecuted by Queen Elizabeth under the Uniformity Act, which required Sunday church attendance. They fled to Holland where they were allowed to worship freely. They joined with the Mennonite Church, which was a 7th Day Sabbath-keeping church.
My hope is to shed light on the fact that the Pilgrims attended a 7th Sabbath Keeping church and they left England because they were required by law to attend the Sunday Keeping churches. They originated from the Brownist or Separatist.
There were three Protestant groups in England starting in the 1600’s– The Conformist (which followed the Church of England), The Puritans ( which were opposed to many of the teachings of the Church of England but kept Sunday) and the Separatist (which was started by Robert Browne many of which kept the Old Testament laws).
The term Brownists was a common designation for early Separatists before 1620. Brownists, Independents, and Separatists were all used somewhat interchangeably for those nonconformists who broke with the Church of England.
- Robert Browne was a Puritan Congregationalist leader, one of the original proponents of the Separatist, or Free Church, movement among Non-conformists that demanded separation from the Church of England and freedom of state control. His separatist followers became known as Brownists. Educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and ordained, he, with Robert Harrison, gathered a Separatist Church at Norwich in 1580. As a consequence of this and other similar activities, he was imprisoned 32 times and in 1582 was exiled. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th Edition, 1990, Vol. 2, p. 562)
In 1582, under the influence of Dutch Mennonites (whose congregations had already existed separately before the Dutch Reformed Church became dominant), Browne published two tracts arguing for separation and for congregations with freely-entered mutual covenants allowing all members to select the pastor and lay leaders democratically.
Who were the Pilgrims in England and what churches did they attend?
The Pilgrims came out of three English churches. The first one was the Southwark church. The story begins with John Greenwood. John Greenwood, a clergyman, was ordained at Lincoln in 1582, and served in Lincolnshire from 1582-83. Greenwood was arrested in Norfolk in 1585 probably for preaching without a license, or against the Church.
Also all of Britain was required to attend the Church of England. Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services, with a fine of 12d for each missed Sunday and a holy day. The penalties for conducting unofficial services included imprisonment and larger fines.
In 1586 he was the recognized leader of the London Separatists, of whom a considerable number had been imprisoned at various times. In 1586 he and a group of people were sent to jail for refusing to obey the religious laws of Elizabeth 1, thus beginning a tradition of religious dissent within Southwark located NE of London. The dissenters founded a prison church under the guidance of John Greenwood, and Henry Barrowe, a lawyer. They called themselves ‘Independents’ but were also known as ‘Brownists’ because of the freethinking of Robert Browne, the father of the Separatist movement. Another clergyman, Francis Johnson, soon joined them. He had been ordered by the English Ambassador to Holland to buy and burn the books by Greenwood and Barrowe. Inspired by them he came to visit the authors and found himself being jailed with them!
In 1592 Greenwood, Barrowe and John Penry gained a temporary reprieve and began meeting at a house in the Borough and formally constituted the Southwark Independent Church. This new congregation was being organized around Francis Johnson as its new Pastor, and John Greenwood as its Teacher.
However, the reprieve was short-lived and Greenwood and Barrowe were executed on 6th April 1593. John Penry was also executed, at a site near the present day junction between Albany Road and Old Kent Road, on 29th May 1593. Roger Rippon, whose house was used for worship was arrested and died of disease in prison. Eight imprisoned members of the Johnson-Greenwood congregation were released in April 1593. Others congregation members were released in the fall of 1597, these made their way to their former congregation members in Holland.
On his release Francis Johnson finally settled in Holland where many of the Southwark dissenters had fled. The remaining members of the group continued to meet in secret before being brought into the open by Henry Jacob in 1616. The writings of Johnson had influenced Jacob and in 1620 some members of the Southwark Church were given permission to sail to America. It was this group who went on the Mayflower. They were a 7th Day Sabbath-keeping congregation.
Between 1605-07 Richard Clifton had attempted to establish an Independent or Separatist congregation in the Gainsborough England area. He joined ranks with Thomas Helwys. During 1607, John Smyth was visiting Thomas Helwys, the Elder of the Scrooby separatist congregation located 12 miles from Gainsborough. Smyth a former clergyman from Lincoln had been living in the area. Smyth was soon elected as the new pastor of the Gainsborough-on-Trent Congregation with Thomas Helwys as its Elder.
A decision was soon made to move both congregations to Holland for safety. The Gainsborough Congregation under Smyth and Helwys would depart first, and the Scrooby congregation would follow shortly later.
Members of a Brownist church in Gainsborough, went over in 1607 to Holland. They left behind a few scattered friends at Scrooby, twelve miles to the west of Gainsborough in the Hundred of Basset Lawe, in Nottinghamshire, England.
- In 1608, Johnson’s Amsterdam congregation was invaded briefly by an influx of another Barrowist congregation from Gainsborough-on-Trent, under the leadership of John Smyth, a former clergyman and university friend of Johnson. Some 125 members did arrive in Amsterdam during 1608 in dribbles and drabs, and by late 1608 most of the Scrooby congregation had arrived. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th Edition, 1990, Vol. 10, pp. 114-5)
In 1602 Robinson became a curate at St. Andrew’s Church, Norwich. His refusal to conform to the Anglican anti-Puritan decrees of 1604 led to his suspension from preaching, and in 1606 or 1607 he joined the Separatist congregation at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire. Also called Nonconformists, these early congregationalists wished to separate from the Church of England so they could follow what they believed to be purer and more simplified forms of church government and worship.
With the Scrooby congregation Robinson travelled to Amsterdam in 1608, but in 1609 he went with 100 of his followers to Leiden to escape the dissension prevalent among the other Nonconformist groups. As pastor at Leiden, he inspired the growth of his congregation to 300 members. One of them, William Bradford, who later became governor of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, likened Robinson’s congregation to the early Christian churches because of its “true piety, humble zeal and fervent love towards God and his Ways.”
- Robinson entered Leiden University in 1615 to study theology, but by 1617 he and his followers were seeking a more secure and permanent location. In July 1620, while he remained with the majority who were not yet ready to travel, part of his congregation sailed for England aboard the Speedwell. Before departure from Leiden, Robinson declared to them in a celebrated sermon, “For I am confident the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy Word.” The following September, 35 of them left Plymouth on the Mayflower for New England. Robinson died before he could leave Holland, and the remnant of his congregation was absorbed by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1658”. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th Edition, 1990, Vol. 10, pp. 114-5)
John Robinson received a letter from the Dutch Government granting him and the Brownist to settle and practice their faith in the Leiden, Holland:
According to the Lenden Museum, the Pilgrims joined the Mennonite church. Below is a quote from the Lenden Museum:
- “1609, the Pilgrims arrived from England as refugees. After a short period in Amsterdam, the Pilgrims received official permission to live in Leiden. The city’s response declared that Leiden refuses no honest people free entry to come live in the city, as long as they behave honestly and obey all the laws and ordinances, and under those conditions the applicants’ arrival here would be pleasing and welcome.” (999 / SA 300 Missives Book C fo. 126 / Letter)
“Letter sent by the city of Leiden to Jan Jansz. (van) Baersdorp, member of the Provincial Executive of the States of Holland, in reply to an undated letter received from him in 1609. Van Baersdorp is asked to hand to the lord grand pensionary (of Holland) the reply from the city of Leiden together with the request received from John Robinson and some members of the Christian Reformed Religion and the decision taken with regard to that request on February 12, 1609. The city of Leiden declares that when a request was received from John Robinson, pastor, and some members of the Christian Reformed Religion, all born in England, it was decided to grant permission to them to come and take up residence in Leiden. At the time the city of Leiden was not aware that the persons in question were members of the sect of the Brownists.”
The Pilgrims spent 11 years in Leiden, during which time they came into contact with Dutch Mennonites, French Calvinists, and other religious dissenters. In 1620, the Pilgrims set sail for the New World on the Mayflower. The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum was founded in 1997 inside a house dating from around 1370, which may have sheltered the Pilgrims during their stay in Leiden.
Soon after they arrived in Holland they came under influence of the Anabaptist teachings through the Mennonite. Smyth’s church in Amsterdam, founded on the principle of adult baptism in 1609, is considered the first truly Baptist church. Two years later the congregation split with part of them remaining in Holland where they eventually united with the Mennonites, a 7th day Sabbath-keeping church. The other part, led by Thomas Helwys returned to England where they settled at Spitalfield just outside London.
The Mennonite Church descended from the Waldesians. They were 7th day Sabbath Keepers. Quotes below demonstrate how the Pilgrims moved to Holland and keep the Old Testment laws, the Sabbath, the Passover and circumcision:
The Anabaptist or Mennonites moved to Holland:
- “We have now seen that the Baptists who were formerly called Anabaptists and in later times, Mennonites, were the original Waldenses and have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin…. The Mennonites are descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into various countries’ and who during the latter part of the 13th C. fled into Flanders, and into the provinces of Holland and Zealand.” (Dr. Ypeij and Rev. J.J. Dermout,History of the Dutch Reformed Church Vol. 1,1819.)
- “In Holland where Anabaptists grew, the Waldenses were held to be the first propagandists of Anabaptist views on Holland soil. Also some of the oldest Mennonite families in Holland had names of Waldensian origin and claimed to be progeny of such exiled fathers.” (William R. Williams, Lecture on Baptist History, p. 127-128.)
- “To speak my mind freely, if their (Waldensian) opinions and customs were to be examined without prejudice, it would appear that among all the modern sects of Christians, they had the greatest resemblance to that of the Mennonites or Dutch Baptists.” (Limborch, The History of the Inquisition, London, 1731.)
- “Bohemia was once the headquarters of those Waldenses who had been driven from the valleys by persecution. Later it became the main head quarters for the Swiss Baptists, namely Hutterites (Mennonites).” (Peter Ruckman, History of the N.T. ChurchI, p. 407.)
- “They who maintain the Saturday Sabbath to be in force, comply with the Anabaptists.” (Dr. Francis White, Treatise on the 7th Day, p. 132.)
- Martin Luther states, “Thus all other religious tendencies act, aside from the true doctrine of Scriptures, as Mohammed of the Turks, the Talmud of the Jews, as also our Anabaptists, are almost the same; all forsake and abandon the true works and life God’s Word requires and urges…” Luther goes on to state, “the fanatical revilers of the sacrament (Anabaptists) were for all practical purposes indistinguishable from the Jews…” Luther writes Against the Sabbatarians in 1538 and accuses the Anabaptists of circumcision and partaking in Jewish ritual. Luther was less tolerant of the Anabaptists than Jews since they “insinuate themselves upon the church and at the same time refuse to submit to its authority…” Luther also signed a memo in 1536 assessing the death penalty to all Anabaptists. (8th Sunday After Trinity, Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 4.)
- “We shall afterwards show that the rise of the Anabaptists took place prior to the reformation of the Church of England, and there are also reasons for believing that on the continent of Europe, small hidden Christian societies who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists, have existed from the time of the apostles. In the sense of the direct transmission of divine truth, and the true nature of spiritual religion, it seems probably that these churches have a lineage or succession more ancient then that of the Roman Church.” (Robert Barclay, The Innerlife of the Societies of the Commonwealth, p. 11-12, 1876.)
- “The Anabaptists continued observing many of the same external points as the Waldensians, such as they viewed the Old Testament of great importance, retained the Waldensian translations of the Bible, which had the epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans, continued to worship using the same forms of prayers and hymns, the same observations of the (Passover) once a year, the same view towards congregation buildings free from idols and crosses, simple plain dress… all showing that the 16th C. Anabaptists descended from the Waldensians.” (John T. Christian,A History of the Baptists, Vol. I Ch. 7 and 8.)
- “If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and more sure than the Anabaptists since there have been none for these 1200 years past, that have cheerfully and steadfastly undergone, and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people…. Were it not that the Baptists (Anabaptists) have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past 1200 years, they would swarm in greater numbers than all the reformers.” (Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, 1504-1579.)
- “The modern Mennonites affirm that their predecessors were the descendants of the Waldenses.” (Mosheim, Institute of Ecclesiastical History, p. 200, 1755.)
These churches met with the Mennonite or Anabaptist which kept many of the Old Testament Law such as the 7th Day Sabbath.
Baptist heritage is more closely related to the Gainsborough congregation where John Smyth and Thomas Helwys were leaders. Their congregation left England about 1607. Soon after they arrived in Holland they came under influence of the Anabaptist teachings through the Mennonites.
Smyth’s church in Amsterdam, founded on the principle of adult baptism in 1609, is considered the first truly Baptist church. Two years later the congregation split with part of them remaining in Holland where they eventually united with the Mennonites. The other part, led by Thomas Helwys returned to England where they settled at Spitalfield just outside London.
(Sanford, Don A., A Choosing People: The History of Seventh Day Baptists, Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee (1992) pp. 39-40, 86.)
In Fact the Scrooby Congregation started the 7th Day Baptist Church in America.
“Among the Scrooby congregation which fled to Holland but who did not come to America until a decade later was John Dunham, whose grandson, Reverend Edmund Dunham, founded the Seventh Day Baptist church in Piscataway, New Jersey, nearly a century later in 1705.”
(Sanford, Don A., A Choosing People: The History of Seventh Day Baptists, Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee (1992) pp. 39-40, 86.)
Based on what we have read, it is clear that the Pilgrims came from three churches Scrooby, Gainborough, and Southwark. They fled to Holland where many attended with the Mennonites. The Mennonites were the descendants for the Waldesians who fled also to Holland. The Mennonites were 7th Day Sabbath Keepers. Members from the Scrooby Congregation later founded the Seventh Day Baptist Church in 1705. Both John Robinson and William Bradford were members of the Scrooby Congregation. William Bradford was the Pilgrim leader in Plymouth.
BOTTOM LINE IS THAT THIS COUNTRY IS BLESSED AND WAS BLESSED BECAUSE THE FOUNDERS KEPT THE SABBATH AND YHVH’S WAYS (HIS TORAH).