October 31, 2005

John Robinson (1576–1625) and "Reformation Day"

John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrims who sailed to the New World, has some relevant words for those speaking of a "Reformation Day." I celebrate what the Reformers accomplished in Christ's name in so far as their thoughts and actions correspond to scripture. However, I am not one to so sing the praises of the Reformers that I don't notice where they made mistakes and acted wrongly. I am grieved when I am around Christians who fall prey to Reformation propaganda to the extent that they refuse to go beyond the Reformers. This sometimes happens because they are so locked into their traditions and confessions (taking great pride in them), that they can go no further than Luther, Calvin or their successors. These types of people may have favorite teachers that they so admire, that they will not hold anything contrary to what these men teach.

John Robinson has appropriate words for such people. Speaking in his memorable charge to the departing company at Delft Haven, he said:
I charge you before God and His blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveals anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth by my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of those reformed Churches which are come to a period in religion, and will go, at present, no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of His will our God has revealed to 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, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received, for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.
E. H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church (Basingstoke, Hants, UK: Pickering & Inglis, 1985), 245–246.

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