King James of England is dramatic proof that God can work in the worst of conditions, use the poorest of material, and still achieve world-changing results. Of himself, the King had little to recommend him. In the opinion of London’s elite, he was crude and untrustworthy. Though he responded favorably to the Puritan request for an "authorized" version of the Bible he was far from being their friend. Soon after his arrival in England he said of the Puritans, "I will make them conform or I will harry them out of the land." In part, he succeeded and the Pilgrims’ flight to America soon followed. Like the woman in Revelation, who "fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God," the Pilgrims escaped to the forests of the New World.

The greatest threat to the Puritans--and even to King James himself--was Catholic Spain that preparing a blood-bath for Protestant Europe. The Spanish Inquisition, as an unspeakable terror to mankind, was relentlessly wiping out Protestantism in Spain and had turned its vengeful eye toward England. The torture-rack, slow deaths, and execution, awaited all non-Catholics who fell under Spanish control. This threat faced all Protestant Englishmen--not just Puritans. Thankfully, in an intervention of God, during King James’ first year on the Throne, English troops defeated Spain and ended the danger.

Briefly explained, the difference between Puritans and Pilgrims was that the Puritans wanted to remain in the Church of England and "purify" it; the Pilgrims had given up that hope. Instead, they separated from the Church of England and, "confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth," sought a homeland “whose builder and maker is God".Hebrews 11:10,13,14. Theologically, the two groups were the same and in America, the name “Puritan” identified the church. Before coming to the New World, many Puritans fled to Holland in the effort to find peace and security for their churches. That attempt failed. Returning to England, they twice left for America in the company of another ship, the Speedwell, only to be forced back when over-crowded conditions caused the Speedwell to begin sinking.

When the Mayflower finally came to America in 1620, over-loaded from the Speedwell’s cancellation, some husbands, wives, and children, were separated and left weeping on the dock as the tiny ship set out to sea. One of those staying behind was their beloved Pastor, John Robinson, a bright star in the Puritan movement, who had guided them through years of political and religious turmoil. Still in his forties, he hoped, ultimately, to join his flock in the New World. Six years later, however, 1626, Miles Standish, came to America and brought the news the little band of Pilgrims most dreaded to hear: Their beloved John was dead. King James was also dead. Hampton Court was history. But, the Pilgrims were safely in America. And, thanks to God, on their pulpits was a wonderful translation of Scripture known as the King James Bible.

While the Pilgrims grieved over the death of Pastor John, in reality, they were never without his guidance. Not only did they have his written sermons and numerous letters, but one special message would always be engraved in their heart. It was the farewell address he delivered the day they sailed from England. In that message the Holy Spirit gave them a prophetic word for the founding of America and a truth which still challenges the church four centuries later. Listen to it carefully. In part, John Robinson said:

"I charge you before God and before his blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his (another minister), be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry: for I am verily persuaded, I am very confident, the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of his holy Word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a full stop in religion and will go at present, no further than the instruments of their first reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw: whatever part of his will our good God has imparted and revealed unto Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God; who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God: but were they now living, they would be as willing to embrace further light, as that which they first received."*

The separate messages in this quotation are astounding. Some of the radical concepts of truth and liberty that were later birthed in Colonial America and became the backbone of democracy owe their conception to the pen of this man. For example,

1. "The Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of his holy Word." John Robinson did not believe that theologians of his day had fully exhausted the mine of God's written truth. Rather, he was thoroughly convinced that they had only broken through the top-soil of what would ultimately prove to be an inexhaustible source of Divine gold. If only Christians today had that same vision!

2. "The reformed churches ... are come to a full stop in religion and will go at present, no further than the instruments of their first reformation." They "stick fast where they were left by that great man of God". Though Robinson did not regard himself as belonging to either the Lutheran or the Calvinist camp, he none-the-less experienced true grief that they had become "closed-door" denominations. This is especially significant because it was so unlike the attitude of their founders. Martin Luther and John Calvin, were both willing to accept the fact of "more truth" breaking out of God's Word. That had been the very enticement that forced them to press into God and the truth of Scripture. In both cases, their efforts had been rewarded by the sudden burst of new, holy revelation. Yet their followers, according to John Robinson, "stick fast where they were left by those great men of God." Why did Robinson use the expression "first Reformation”? Did he believe that God wanted to lead them into greater revelation of Scripture than their founders experienced? Did God intend that the Reformation be progressive, on-going, with a second, and perhaps a third stage of revelation?

3. "Whatever part of His will our good God has imparted and revealed unto Calvin, the Lutherans will rather die than embrace it." The religious trap which Luther and Calvin both zealously fought to escape--the "polarization, isolation, and stagnation," of their traditional backgrounds--their own Lutheran and Calvinist disciples were frantically defending. Robinson saw this as a "misery much to be lamented." That quickly, the church had returned to the bondage of a new-style, Protestant tradition.

4. Though Luther and Calvin "were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God." Luther knew that he had not explored the "heights and depths" of God; Calvin also knew it. The ultimates of revelation, like a distant star, still shone beyond both of these men, beckoning them on. Oddly, their followers never grasped that truth. And sadly, it is still that way. Denominational Christianity, for the most part, is polarized around itself, isolated from revelation knowledge God has imparted to its' neighbors, and inbreeding with its own kind. Consequently, each is fighting alone against the death-angel of stagnation. This is always the inescapable result of any Christian group which rejects "more truth" from God and relies instead on the meager supply it already has.

5. Were Luther and Calvin "now living, they would be as willing to embrace further light, as that which they first received." Is that an unfounded statement for John Robinson to make of these men? Not at all. That was the very quality that made them what they were in the beginning. They were willing to embrace further light when the opportunity came. And if they had done it the first time and it worked, they would do it again. That simple fact is what made them Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Where does John Robinson's challenge find most of current Christianity? Answer: On the outside looking in. In most cases, the test of being a Baptist or an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian or a Lutheran, etc., is "What did our ancestors believe?" That, my friend, is the very mind-set which the Reformers fought to escape--not to preserve. Had that narrow principle been their guide there would have been no Reformation and the Bible would still be a closed, unknown book. Thank God that this "misery much to be lamented", that is, the refusal of Christians to accept what God has revealed to other believers, is now changing. Baptists and Brethren are receiving "more truth" about the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. So are Methodists and Mennonites. Presbyterians and Pentecostals are learning from each other.

John Robinson would be pleased. If fact, I imagine that Brother John is now shouting on the streets of Glory that we are finally beginning to see the Light! God does have "more truth" breaking forth out of His holy Word. The current emphasis about the work of the Holy Spirit is part of it. If it is God's truth, accept it. Don't ask if it is Pentecostal or Catholic, Baptist or Presbyterian, instead, fall before the Throne, thank God for it, and with all your heart believe it. You will be glad you did. To King James, the Puritans, Pilgrims, and others who are currently choosing truth over tradition we say Thank You! *John Fletcher's History of Independency, Volume 3, page 69.

Charles Carrin,

Source: Charles Carrin Ministries