Introduction

The Saga of the Pilgrims is a story about the religious persecution brought on a group of Christians by a government. It is also a story about God's deliverance from that persecution. This story applies, even in our modern day, to more and more Christians around the world--Christians coming increasingly under government and religious persecution. Government persecution and persecution of all types against Christians is constantly growing in our modern world, as amazing as that may seem to some of us in the United States of America. But it is a plain fact, that as we get closer to the end of this age of man, these persecutions will increase. Jesus talked about this persecution in the end times just prior to his return, so we shouldn't be surprised. But some of us are, living in these United States of America, when we hear of Christians being persecuted and even killed in other countries. We don't really know whether to believe these stories or not, they sound so outrageous, like Christians being crucified or sold into slavery in the Sudan. Surely that can't happen here, can it? How bad could it get over here in the United States? I think that is a good reason we need to look at the Saga of the Pilgrims, because England in the 1600's was considered a civilized society. Queen Elizebeth's sea dogs had just beaten off the Spanish Armada with their skillful seamanship, high muzzle-velocity cannons, and by God's grace through a great storm. A virtual knowledge bloom both in Scripture and technology was taking place, quite similar to our time. So let's take a close look at the Saga of the Pilgrims, for it may yet become our Saga. And if any of you doubt the seriousness of the times we live in, remember what just happened on September 11, 2001.

This story is the history of the start of the Congregationalist revival, but it is also a history of Christians under persecution, and more importantly, a story about their deliverance. They were firmly anchored to Jesus, their Rock, and he used them to become the holy seed crystal of the greatest nation on earth. We and they will become the seed crystal of the coming Kingdom of God at the return of Jesus Christ! He is preparing us to land on that promised land, so let us read the Saga of the Pilgrims with these things in mind.

One other essential thing. We must not forget one of the central "religious" motives for the Pilgrim's move to the New World was that of world evangelism. According to writings of Bradford and Edward Winslow this motive was expressed thusly: "Lastly, and which was not least, a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make someway thereunto, for the promoting and advancing of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work." These humble folk were indeed "stepping stones" for greater works of world evangelism which now are presently going around the globe and reaching billions of people with the gospel, all within the last eight years! Be sure to click onto the section "What is Evangelism" and then onto the article "Evangelism: national and international" to read about a group of Christians who have currently reached two billion people with the gospel in just eight short years. Without the godly foundation the Pilgrims laid for the settlement and establishment of these United States, such works would not be possible. We must rekindle that early spiritual fire these Pilgrims had for Jesus' Great Commission which he expressed in Matthew 28:18-20. That Commission the Pilgrim Separatists took quite seriously as one of their major motives for removing to the New World, a very uncertain world.

Elder William Brewster’s Advice to Christians
Living in the United States

If Elder Brewster were alive right now, what advice would he have for Christians today, living in this country his Plymouth Plantation was a foundation of? This article titled Saga of the Pilgrims will answer that question by showing you how the Separatist Christians reacted to very similar circumstances they were living through. First, William Brewster, upon taking stock of the condition of the Christian churches in the United States, would realize that many of these churches have become what the Church of England was like in the late 1500s to early 1600s. The very reason these Pilgrims were called Separatists was because they believed one had to separate himself or herself out from the Church of England in order to more ensure one’s salvation. Why did they feel so strongly about this issue? It was because the Church of England was baptizing and allowing known sinners to become members of the Church of England. The Bible, as they could plainly read in 1 Corinthians, commands believers to have no fellowship with sinners that are in the church, and to put them out of the church. Well these Separatists couldn’t very well remove the “sinners” the Church of England was admitting into their fellowship out of that church, so they felt compelled to break off from that church, even though that put their lives in peril of the monarchy of England, the government. William Brewster would take one good look at what is going on within the Christian churches here in the United States, and judging by the same biblical standards they had lived by, advise all Christians living in this land of ours to separate out from any Christian church which baptized and/or admitted known sinners to their membership rolls. Now that sounds pretty reactionary. But understand, Mr. Brewster was a very pronounced reactionary of his day. King James I of England had a price on Mr. Brewster’s head because he had actually dared to publish a book that went against the kings wishes.
The other thing the Separatists and Mr. Brewster were known for whilst living in the midlands of England was this. They would search diligently for those parishes and churches that had a real preacher that preached the Word of God powerfully and in a way that would spiritually nourish the congregation. He and they would search out for Holy Spirit led and inspired preachers, and go to their services. They set the prime example of going out in search of churches that were alive spiritually, and leaving ones that weren’t. Now that may ruffle a few pastoral feathers, but these people were willing to risk their lives and die so that we in this land of ours could have that freedom without risk to life and limb.
So If Elder Brewster were alive today he would be just as reactionary in his advice to Christians as he was back in 1620. He would advise all Christians living in this land he loved so much to separate themselves out from any church they might be attending if that church or denomination was now in the habit of baptizing or admitting to its membership rolls known sinners. He would go on to advise these same Christians to find for themselves doctrinally sound, solid churches who have preachers in them that expound the whole Word of God without distortion, in a spiritually nourishing manner.
Now let’s define sin. The Bible says sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Which law? Christians follow the law of Christ (which is based on, but not quite the same as the Law of Moses). The law of Christ is defined by Jesus in Matthew 5:17-48, and by Paul in Romans 1. Churches that admit as members people who are knowingly and willingly living by lifestyles defined in these two passages are what Mr. Brewster would advise we “separate” ourselves out from and cease attending.
As a direct descendant of William Brewster, and in a tiny way following in his footsteps in gospel publishing using the most modern media (the Internet), just as he did in the 1600s (the printing press), I feel compelled to tell you what advice my ancestor would desire have me pass on to you. Do you think this advice is too reactionary? Then read about the man who would give you this same advice if he were alive today--read about the man who lived the very advice he would give you in Saga of the Pilgrims.


Enjoy,

Pete Benson
(a descendant of William Brewster)

Three Types of Churches

 

1. A liberal church says you are welcome here and you do not have to clean up your life.  (most of the older Christian denominations have become liberal.) 

This group of churches tend to be made up of the older Christian revivals-turned-denominations, ones that are from 200 to 300 years old, Lutheran, Episcopal (Church of England), Congregational, Methodist, and many of the Baptist churches, although some of these fall into the next category.  Many of these revivals-turned-denominations started out alive and spiritually healthy, and as Charles Stanley said, “the churches became more filled with born-into the church, rather than born-again members of the church.”  This is the normal life-death cycle of most large Christian revivals-turned-denominations, they turn liberal and thus licentious. 

 

A friend of mine pointed out the he’s met some real Christians working at a downtown Christian rescue mission, and also a homeless shelter run by one of these denominations from some of these older revival-turned-denominations.  What would Jesus recommend?  What Jesus said in his letter to the church of Ephesus would apply here, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:4-5a)  So for those who are still really with-it spiritually and are attending one of these older revivals that has become liberal by the above definition, who have fallen from their first works, how would you follow Jesus’ advice in Revelation 2:4-5a?  You would seek out and start attending a church/denomination that is a young revival-turned-denomination, one that is spiritually vibrant, yet balanced and teaching the Word of God.  See category 3.  

 

2. A legalistic church says you are not welcome here until you clean up your life.  The Sabbath-keeping Churches of God tend to be legalistic, and won’t baptize people until they’re obeying to their satisfaction the laws of God, and adhering to their own doctrinal understandings (many of which may be correct, it’s just they’re placing the “obedience cart” before the horse).  There are many other legalistic churches out there as well. Some Torah Observant Messianic Jewish congregations fall into this category, while other’s don’t.  As the Book of Acts brings out, baptism and the laying on of hands, which for the early Church brought the Holy Spirit into one’s life, was instant, once a person accepted Christ as their Saviour.  Delaying baptism until a high degree of obedience is evident in the person’s life is spiritually counter-productive to the life and growth of these churches as well as for the individual, for it is the Holy Spirit that enables real deep, from the heart obedience (cf. Romans 7 verses Romans 8).  These churches tend to be run by ministers that crack the whip and demand obedience from the pulpit, instead of leading people to Christ, who then through the Holy Spirit enables obedience.  In that sense, these ministers tend to usurp the job of the Holy Spirit through their demands for obedience externally, instead of guiding their flocks to seek the Holy Spirit that enables internal obedience, from the heart.  Thus, they tend to be cattle-drivers and not shepherds over God’s flock which has been entrusted to their care.  Many of the fundamentist churches are legalistic, although some of them are not.  Now don’t come to a wrong conclusion about legalistic churches, especially the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, as many within their congregations have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God do have a very good understanding of God’s Word, the Bible, and many Bible doctrines.  It’s just they have the cart before the horse in their understanding of law & grace, and their concepts about ministry are a bit off (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/AShepherdLooksAt%20Psalm23-short.htm).  Amazingly enough, the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God are the very descendants of the original Judeo-Christian churches of God in both Judea and Asia Minor up to around 300AD, before being persecuted and driven underground by the proto-Catholic church under Constantine, so don’t be too hard on them.  These Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, historically speaking, have endured and survived great persecution over the past 1700 years, and are to be admired for staying the course (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm).  The persecution over the centuries forced these churches to turn inward, becoming exclusive, seldom becoming powerfully evangelical as the early churches of God were during the period of the Book of Acts.  Jesus’ advice for them would be similar to that which he gave the church at Ephesus, “remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…”  What were those first works?  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm.  Pastors, stop usurping the job of the Holy Spirit, baptize immediately, let the Holy Spirit do its job, and gently teach and shepherd the flock of God Jesus has entrusted to your care.  You have a rich heritage of survival against all odds.  Move forward in these areas.           

 

3. Jesus says you are welcome here and I will change your life from the inside out (cf. John 8:11-12; Romans 8:1-16; John 14:15-17,21; John 16:13-14)  (this category is filled with the Grace oriented churches, they understand the proper balance between law & grace.)  Calvary Chapels, are a denominational group that is most definitely grace oriented, having a proper understanding of law and grace, although their doctrinal explanation about “law & grace” can be somewhat lacking, as they show an aversion to mentioning the word law in their explanations about law & grace.  They are keeping the Laws of God, 9 out of the 10 Commandments, to the level that can only be accomplished by the indwelling Holy Spirit, thus Spirit-level obedience.  There may be a good number of properly grace oriented churches and congregations out there. The Calvary Chapels are the only denomination that comes to mind as a whole denomination in my own personal experience, so I am using them as an example (to learn more about them and when this Christian revival started, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm).  Many Messianic Jewish congregations are properly grace oriented, and fall into this category as well (I attend one). One Messianic Jewish pastor/rabbi, Marty Cohen, who claims his congregation is Torah Observant, but in reality is very grace oriented said this, “Keeping to Torah is not a prerequisite for being saved, but it’s the evidence that you are!”  The Calvary Chapels have been called legalistic by the liberal churches, because they adhere to and live by the Word of God, including 9 out of the 10 Commandments.  They are not legalistic though.  They quietly keep the laws of God as they are enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit, while reaching lovingly out to the sinners in the world through their good works.  This is and should be the evangelistic approach of all grace oriented churches and denominations.  Oh, by the way, the Messianic Jewish revival which started to go full-steam around 1970 onward, has seen about one-million Jews come to Christ, by some estimates.  Jesus has truly restored the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ, which originally was under the apostle Peter in Judea (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/messianicmovement.htm).  

 

related links:

 

1. Why would I say the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God are descended from the Judeo-Christian churches of God in Judea and Asia Minor?  See, http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm and then follow the trail, make the comparison historically, and to do that, see, 

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm

 

2. How should God’s pastors shepherd God’s sheep?  See,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/AShepherdLooksAt%20Psalm23-short.htm

 

3. Both the Calvary Chapel Christian revival and the explosive revival of the Messianic Jewish movement started around the same time, 1969-1970.  See,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm

and

http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/messianicmovement.htm

 

4. If you’re a believer or a new believer, and trying to decide where you should attend, you’re in the process of choosing a church/denomination, and asking ‘Where would it be best for me to attend, what church/denomination would do the best job of nurturing and establishing me and my family spiritually?’ you need to make a wise choice and consider some spiritual factors.  To help you do this, see,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/choosingachurch.htm

 

5.  You may find this hard to believe, considering the divided and fractured state of the Body of Christ, but Jesus Christ (as the pre-Incarnate Yahweh) has directly and emphatically called for unity within the Body of Christ.  See,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophets/Zephaniah/Zephaniah1.htm

(and scroll to the section on Zephaniah 2:1-3)