Thankfully Descended from Separatists
Note: This was originally posted in November 2015 on our Godstuff site, I just rediscovered it and thought it belonged here as well since it is about our ancestors.
I love Thanksgiving, a tradition that merges my hobby of genealogy with my Christian beliefs, not only have I been able to see my ancestors more clearly but I have learned more about the worship of our God over the centuries than I might have without this merging. And of course who doesn’t love a feast!
Francis Cooke of the Mayflower
Francis Cooke was my Eleventh Great Grandfather. Francis Cooke was the father of Jane, who married Experience Mitchell, Experience was the father of Elizabeth who married John Washburn. John was the father of Joseph. Joseph was the father of Jonathan and Joseph and their brothers by Hannah Latham. Joseph II was the father of Seth who fought at Breed’s Hill. Seth was the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Sally who married Jacob Green. Jared was the father of Louisa Maria Green who married Milton Rathbun Spears. Milton was the father of Cortez and Cortez was the father of Bertha who married Lawrence Augustus Cummings. Lawrence was the father of Cortez, Cortez was the father of Patricia by Daisy Dutcher.
Since I learned that we were direct descendants of the most famous separatists ever, I am drawn to the history of early New England. A couple years ago I stumbled upon an odd little text book at a thrift store, “The Puritan dilemma : the story of John Winthrop” by Edmund S. Morgan. Reading it, I discovered that the folks we have been taught to revere were hated as deserters of the cause by mainstream Puritans.
Today, in our society “Puritan” is a fun derogatory used by everyone to make a joke of those who take God seriously, I was surprised to learn that is exactly where their name came from, they were called Puritans by the mainstream church of their time in an effort to degrade them, but they decided to embrace the label.
But both groups, the conventional Puritans and the separatists, had the same dream, to create a theocracy based on the guidelines God outlined in the Hebrew Bible.
Off with their heads
The Puritans had lived during the reign of Bloody Mary so it is not surprising that some of them would give up on any idea that they would be able to reform their world, the English government or the church that they were required to belong to, the kings church, “The Church of England”.
The separatist Puritans, or, Protestant Non-conformists, didn’t want to conform to the society in England, they wanted to live a life centered on God, which was unacceptable to the government of England. They were required under penalty of law to be a part of the lifestyle set up for them by the king and his bishops.
They wanted badly to remove themselves from a corrupt culture that tempted their children to stray from faith. They were so determined to protect their families from spiritual and cultural degradation that they finally decided that the only place they would be able to do that was the wilderness of the Americas.
A deal with the devil
Lacking the riches necessary to make such a move, they unfortunately made a pact with wealthy English merchants to get across the ocean and get set up. The fact that more than half the people on the Mayflower were men lusting after their fortunes is left out of most of the stories I was told. I learned recently that the seed sown by those merchants in this new world was so strong that the revolutionary ideas of the reformer Christians was completely overshadowed by mercantilism, so much so, that within 3 generations their society was already in need of “The Great Awakening”
Even the mainstream Puritans who chose to stay behind when the separatists left England, who derided them for giving up the fight to reform the evil world they inhabited, followed on their heals by 1630 and made their own pact with merchants, forming the Massachusetts Bay colony in the Boston area.
The fact that the other Puritans followed the separatists to the new world didn’t change how they felt about their earlier refusal to play in the world of politics with them, it is recorded that as they departed England’s shores, the Puritan pastor, Mr. Higginson, calling up his children and other passengers unto the stern of the ship to take their last sight of England, said,
“We will not say, as the Separatists were wont to say at their leaving of England, Farewell, Babylon! farewell, Rome! but we will say, Farewell, dear England! farewell, the church of God in England, and all the Christian friends there! We do not go to New England as Separatists from the Church of England, though we cannot but separate from the corruptions in it; but we go to practice the positive part of church reformation and propagate the gospel in America.'”
Peace, the escape from chaos
Is it surprising that Francis and his fellow believers felt powerless against the mightiest government of the earth?
Even though no one agrees with me, I believe the culture today is more dissolute, degraded and corrupt than the one the Puritans were fighting to escape, often losing their lives in the effort.
I am thankful that I have finally realized how powerless I am to change any of it. I spent too much of my life worrying about the ills of the world and its governments, I am so much happier to go off somewhere and find some peaceful place to see if I can find a deeper relationship with God like my GGGGGGGreatGrandparents Francis and Hester.
And say you, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise. Blessed be Jehovah, God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised Jehovah.