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Writings
  John Robinson's Farewell Letter to the Pilgrims

This letter was written by John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims church in Leiden. Since a majority of the church remained behind in Leiden, he made the very difficult decision to stay and minister to those remaining in Holland rather than come on the Mayflower. He planned to come to America as soon as he could get more of his church over, but his untimely death in 1626 prevented his ever making it to the New World. He wrote this farewell letter, which was read by John Carver to the Pilgrims gathered aboard the Mayflower just prior to their first attempted departure on August 5, 1620. This letter had a profound influence on many of the Pilgrims, and the astute reader will see that some of the concepts and wording even made its way into the Mayflower Compact.

Loving and Christian Friends,

I do heartily and in the Lord salute you all as being they with whom I am present in my best affection, and most earnest longings after you. Though I be constrained for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say constrained, God knowing how willingly and much rather than otherwise, I would have borne my part with you in this first brunt, where I not by strong necessity held back for the present. Make account of me in the meanwhile as of a man divided in myself with great pain, and as (natural bonds set aside) having my better part with you. And though I doubt not but in your godly wisdoms you both foresee and resolve upon that which concerneth your present state and condition, both severally and jointly, yet have I thought it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation unto them who run already; if not because you need it, yet because I owe it in love and duty. And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins knn occasions of such difficulty and danger sa lieth upon you, to a both more narrow search and careful reformation of your ways in His sight; let He, calling to remembrance our sins forgotten by us or unrepented of, take advantage against us, and in judgment leave us for the same to be swallowed up in one danger or other. Whereas, on the contrary, sin being taken away by earnest repentance and the pardon thereof from the Lord, sealed up unto a man's conscience by His Spirit, great shall be his security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses, with happy deliverance from all evil, whether in live or in death.

Now, next after this heavenly peace with God and our own consciences, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men what in us lieth, especially with our associates. And for that, watchfulness must be had that we neither at all in ourselves do give, no, nor easily take offense being given by others. Woe be unto the world for offenses, for though it be necessary (considering the malice of Satan and man's corruption) that offenses come, yet woe unto the man, or woman either, by whom the offense cometh, saith Christ, Matthew 18:7. And if offenses in the unseasonable use of things, in themselves indifferent, be more to the feared than death itself (as the Apostle teacheth, 1 Corinthians 9:15) how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honor of God nor love of man is thought worthy to be regarded. Neither yet is it sufficient that we keep ourselves by the grace of God from giving offense, except withal we be armed against the taking of them when they be given by others. For how unperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person who wants charity to cover a multitude of offenses, as the Scriptures speak!

Neither are you to be exhorted to this grace only upon the common grounds of Christianity, which are, that persons ready to take offense either want charity to cover offenses, or wisdom duly to weigh human frailty; or lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites as Christ our Lord teacheth (Matthew 7:1,2,3), as indeed in my own experience few or none have been found which sooner give
offense than such as easily take it. Neither have they ever proved sound and profitable members in societies, which have nourished this touchy humor.

But besides these, there are divers motives provoking you above others to great care and conscience this way: As first, you are many of you strangers, as to the persons so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way, lest when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them; which doth require at your hands much wisdom and charity for the covering and preventing of incident offenses that way. And, lastly, your intended course of civil community will minister continual occasion of offense, and will be as fuel for that fire, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. And if taking of offense causelessly or easily at men's doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more heed is to be taken that we take not offense at God Himself, which yet we certainly do so oft as we do murmur at His providence in our crosses, or bear impatiently such afflictions as wherewith He pleaseth to visit us. Store up, therefore, patience against that evil day, without which we take offense at the Lord Himself in His holy and just works.

A fourth thing there is carefully to be provided for, to wit, that with your common employments you join common affections truly bent upon the general good, avoiding deadly plague of your both common and special comfort all retiredness of mind for proper advantage, and all singularly affected any manner of way. Let ever man repress in himself and the whole body in each person, as so many rebels against the common good, all private respects of men's selves, not sorting with the general conveniency. And as men are careful not to have a new house shaken with any violence before it be well settled and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much more careful that the house of God, which you are and are to be, be not shaken with unnecessary novelties or other oppositions at the first settling thereof.

Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminency above the rest, to be chosen by you into office of government; let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations, not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God's ordinance for your good; not being like the foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the Lord's power and authority which the magistrate beareth, is honorable, in how means persons soever. And this duty you both may the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform, because you are at least for the present to have only them for your ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that work.

Sundry other things of importance I could put you in mind of, and of those before mentioned in more words, but I will not so far wrong your godly minds as to think you heedless of these things, there being also divers among you so well able to admonish both themselves and others of what concerneth them. These few things therefore, and the same in few words I do earnestly commend unto your care and conscience, joining therewith my daily incessant prayers unto the Lord, that He who hath made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all rivers of water, and whose providence is over all His works, espeically over all His dear children for good, would so guide and guard you in your ways, as inwardly by His Spirit, so outwardly by the hand of His power, as that both you and we also, for and with you, may have after matter of praising His name all the days of your and our lives. Fare you well in Him in whom you trust, and in whom I rest.

An unfeigned wellwiller of your happy success in this hopeful voyage,

John Robinson

MayflowerHistory.com, Copyright © 1994-2003. All Rights Reserved

To the church of God, at Plymouth in New England.


Much beloved brethren, neither the distance of place, nor distinction of body, can at all either dissolve or weaken that bond of true christian affection in which the Lord by his spirit hath tied us together. My continual prayers are to the Lord for you; my most earnest desire is unto you; from whom I will not longer keep (if God will) than means can be procured to bring with me the wives and children of divers of you and the rest of your brethren, whom I could not leave behind me without great, both injury to you and them, and offence to God and all men. The death of so many our dear friends and brethren; oh I how grievous hath it been to you to bear, and to us to take knowledge of, which, if it could be mended with lamenting, could not sufficiently be bewailed; but we must go unto them and they shall not return unto us: And how many even of us, God hath taken away here, and in England, since your departure, you may elsewhere take knowledge. But the same God has tempered judgment with mercy, as otherwise, soin sparing the rest, especially those by whose godly and wise government, you may be, and (I know) are so much helped. . In a battle it is not looked for but that divers should die; it is thought well for a side, if it get the victory, though with the loss of divers, if not too many or too great. God, I hope, hath given you the victory, after many difficulties, for yourselves and others; though I doubt not, but many do and will remain for you and us all to strive with. Brethren, I hope I need not exhort you to obedience unto those whom God hath set over you, in church and commonwealth, and to the Lord in them. It is a christian's honour, to give honour according to men's places; and his liberty, to serve God in faith, and his brethren in love orderly and with a willing and free heart. God forbid, I should need to exhort you to peace, which is the bond of perfection, and by which all good is tied together, and without which it is scattered. Have peace with God first, by faith in his promises, good conscience kept in all things, and oft renewed by repentance; and so, one with another, for his sake, who is, though three, one; and for Christ's sake who is one, and as you are called by one spirit to one hope. And the God of peace and grace and all goodness be with you, in all the fruits thereof, plenteously upon your heads, now and for ever. All your brethren here, remember you with great love, a general token whereof they have sent you.

Yours ever in the Lord,

John Robinson

Leiden, (Holland) June 30, Anno 1621.

Additional Writings of Interest
The Pilgrim Hall Museum has posted 43 essays by Rev. John Robinson. There is additional information about the early Pilgrim settlers at the Pilgrim Hall site.
Some further readings of interest are John Robinson's Catechism posted by Caleb Johnson. the Seven Articles of the Church of Leyden and the William Bradford web site both posted by Jay Webber who is also a Robinson Researcher.
Mike Paulick sends along further information that should be of interest to this group. There are PDF files available concerning the writings of Rev. John at Libertyfund. Check All Authors in the box on the left of the screen and then scroll down to John Robinson. Enjoy.
Here is another link to the Libertyfund collection that may prove to be a bit faster than the one above. Iti is May 2004 Titles: The Online Library of Liberty. I have only looked at it for a brief time but already find one error in one of the articles concerning the family of John Robinson in which it is stated that his wife and two sons came to New England and we know for some certainty that is not the case. So read and enjoy but be cautious.

Contact Information
Donald L. Robinson
11915 W. 66th Street
Shawnee, KS 66216-2717