Pilgrims’ great escape
Bible believers chased out of Britain for not keeping to the script
By Charles Gardner
DONCASTER, April 19, 2019 – It is perhaps ironic that, on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s sailing in 1620, the British nation is plunged into the same sort of fractious, volatile scenario that led to that great exodus of the faithful.
When, following the Elizabethan era, James I ascended the throne in 1603, he introduced a policy enforcing religious conformity which almost blew up in his face.
First, there was the unsuccessful gunpowder plot through which Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators registered Catholic opposition to the new king with their attempt to reduce Parliament to rubble.
Then the Puritans and Separatists came in for the monarch’s ire. At a time of significant political and religious tension, he tried to steady the ship by ensuring that all his people followed the same pseudo-Protestant script.
As with the Catholics, he also saw the Puritans as potential enemies, warning that he would “harry them out of the land”.
And indeed his dire threat duly succeeded in driving out the so-called Pilgrim Fathers, who had inaugurated the Separatist Church on the borders of Yorkshire and north Nottinghamshire.
Like the Puritans, they were devout Christians who believed the church needed purifying from ritualistic dross. But whereas the Puritans sought change from within, the new movement was convinced such endeavour was a lost cause and that they needed to “come out from among them” (Isa 52.11).
But some were fined, others were imprisoned, and the pressure of persecution eventually led, in 1608, to their escape to a more tolerant Holland.
It was a further dozen years before they sailed for the New World in the Mayflower, the king having changed his mind and given them permission to establish a colony there.
And so these Christians laid the foundations of what was to become the greatest nation on earth, built firmly on the principles of the Bible that had been challenged back in England.
These courageous pioneers were thus used to loose us from the chains of slavery to religious conformity which saw communities forced to attend the state-recognised church where ritual and dead orthodoxy reigned, and where the Bible was chained to the pulpit.
Those who sought to experience the vitality of New Testament Christianity with its emphasis on freedom of the Spirit and a personal relationship with God were deemed as outcasts.
It seems we have come full circle. Faced with the ever-present threat of terrorism, along with aggressive lobbying from secular humanists, we are now urged to follow the politically-correct script, or else.
The Bible has been jettisoned in favour of what is effectively cultural Marxism commanding what is and is not permissible to say or do.
Politicians condemn Brunei for proposing draconian new laws on corporal and capital punishment seen as a return to the ‘Dark Ages’.
But we are hardly squeaky clean ourselves in the way we have driven a coach and horses through the Ten Commandments, seriously undermined marriage which is designed to create safe boundaries for the protection of family life and society in general, and by proposing state-sponsored child abuse through the indoctrination of children as young as four with the idea that they can choose their gender. I suppose, in a way, this is the natural outcome of the state-sanctioned massacre of nine million unborn babies over the past 50 years.
When will we acknowledge our own guilt? When will we stop pointing a finger at other people’s sins and take the ‘plank’ out of our own eye?
Under the proposed ‘no-fault’ divorce law, adultery will no longer be regarded as a sin – not even legally. And yet it is supremely ironic that in a culture in which we are encouraged to blame everyone else for our troubles at a cost of millions, we are about to be exonerated in a key area of life on which almost everything else depends – that is, marriage and the family.
It means that no-one will officially be to blame for break-ups which will have caused untold heartbreak in countless homes. If we are no longer to be held responsible for solemn vows we have made in front of witnesses, what hope do we have of carrying out honest business in the wider world, or of being trusted by others?
What sort of spineless adults will emerge from witnessing their parents split at the drop of a hat? Throwing your toys out of the pram is surely an indulgence reserved for babies who are subsequently disciplined to consider the wider effects of their tantrums.
New housing estates cannot be built fast enough to keep up with the results of the ever-increasing number of people who no longer know how to live with one another. It’s surely time we encouraged people to take responsibility for their actions rather than resorting to the default position of blaming someone else.
Instead of honouring role models of commitment to family life, we fawn over celebrities and sportsmen who become the heroes we worship even though, as in some recent high-profile cases, they have set a shocking example of leadership in the home. On the other hand, rugby stars soon get knocked off their pedestals when they express Christian beliefs on the subject, as did multiple Wimbledon champion Margaret Court.
The fact is there is always someone to blame – not just for break-ups, but for the mess we get ourselves in every day, including the Brexit botch-up. That is why Jesus came – to set us free from the burden of brokenness, guilt and regret, and give us new hope, especially with broken relationships.
As we celebrate Easter, we remember that Jesus became our Passover Lamb who frees us from sin through his blood shed on the cross, prefigured in Egypt 1,500 years earlier by the freedom from slavery of the Jews who marked their doorposts with the blood of a sacrificial lamb.
Do not follow the politically-correct script. When ancient Israel disobeyed the Lord’s commands, the prophet Isaiah warned them that “there is no peace for the wicked” (Isa 48.22). But there is peace, and forgiveness, with Jesus!
What Jesus has done for us can be likened to the action of a First World War chaplain who, when asked for prayer by an officer who was about to embark on a dangerous mission into ‘no man’s land’, said he would do more than that – he would go with him. And when a shell exploded near the two men, the chaplain threw himself on the officer and died in his place.1
1CWR’s Every Day with Jesus, April 15th 2019