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The Humble Request

Redaction, introduction and commentary by John Beardsley.

Parting words, these are to the King and Church of England from the company that sailed for America in 1630. The writer is unknown. By conjecture many ascribe it to Rev. White of Dorchester or Rev. Phillips (the 6th of the signatories, below). The original conception was perhaps drafted by a divine. Due to the tone of the present letter, however, this editor suspects an audacious young aristocrat may have been the final scribe, perhaps the Earl of Lincoln's brother or sister, being Lord Charles Fiennes (the third signer here) and Lady Arbella Fiennes Johnson, who both sailed on the ship bearing Arbella's name in 1630. To everyone's grief died Lady Arbella died during the voyage to America, and Charles soon returned to England.

The Humble Request of His Majesty's Loyal Subjects, the Governor and Company late gone for New England; and to the rest of their Brethren in and of the Church of England; for the obtaining of their Prayers, and the removal of Suspicions, and Misconstructions of their Intentions.

REVEREND FATHERS AND BRETHREN, — The general rumor of this solemn enterprise, wherein ourselves with others, through the providence of the Almighty, are engaged, as it may spare us the labor of imparting our occasion unto you, so it gives us the more encouragement to strengthen ourselves by the procurement of the prayers and blessings of the Lord's faithful servants. For which end we are bold to have recourse unto you, as God hath placed nearest to his throne of mercy, which as it affords you the more opportunity, so it imposeth the greater bond upon you to intercede for his people in all their straits. We beseech you therefore, by the mercies of the Lord Jesus, to consider us as your brethren, standing in very great need of your help, and earnestly imploring it. And however your charity may have met with some occasion of discouragement through the misreport of our intentions, or through the disaffection or indiscretion of some of us, or rather amongst us (for we are not of those that dream of perfection in this world), yet we desire you would be pleased to take notice of the principals and body of our Company, as those who esteem it our honor to call the Church of England, from whence we rise, our dear mother, and cannot part from our native Country, where she specially resideth, without much sadness of heart and many tears in our eyes, ever acknowledging that such hope and part as we have obtained in the common salvation we have received in her bosom, and sucked it from her breasts.

We leave it not therefore as loathing, that milk wherewith we were nourished there; but, blessing God for the parentage and education, as members of the same body, shall always rejoice in her good, and unfeignedly grieve for any sorrow that shall ever betide her, and while we have breath, sincerely desire and endeavor the continuance and abundance of her welfare, with the enlargement of her bounds in the Kingdom of Christ Jesus.

Be pleased, therefore, reverend fathers and brethren, to help forward this work now in hand; which if it prosper, you shall be the more glorious, howsoever your judgment is with the Lord, and your reward with your God. It is a usual and laudable exercise of your charity, to commend to the prayers of your congregations the necessities and straits of your private neighbors: do the like for a Church springing out of your own bowels. We conceive much hope that this remembrance of us, if it be frequent and fervent, will be a most prosperous gale in our sails, and provide such a passage and welcome for us from the God of the whole earth, as both we shall find, and yourselves, with the rest of our friends, who shall hear of it, shall be much enlarged to bring in such daily returns of thanksgivings, as the specialties of His providence and goodness may justly challenge at all our hands. You are not ignorant that the spirit of God stirred up the Apostle Paul to make continual mention of the Church of Philippi, which was a Colony from Rome; let the same spirit, we beseech you, put you in mind, that are the Lord's remembrancers, to pray for us without ceasing, who are a weak Colony from yourselves making continual request for us to God in all your prayers.

What we entreat of you that are the ministers of God, that we also crave at the hands of all the rest of our brethren, that they would at no time forget us in their private solicitations at the throne of grace.

If any there be who, through want of clear intelligence of our course, or tenderness of affection towards us, cannot conceive so well of our way as we could desire, we would entreat such not to despise us, nor to desert us in their prayers and affections, but to consider rather that they are so much the more bound to express the bowels of their compassion towards us, remembering always that both nature and grace doth ever bind us to relieve and rescue, with our utmost and speediest power, such as are dear unto us, when we conceive them to be running uncomfortable hazards.

What goodness you shall extend to us in this or any other Christian kindness, we, your brethren in Christ Jesus, shall labor to repay in what duty we are or shall be able to perform, promising, so far as God shall enable us, to give him no rest on your beliefs, wishing our heads and hearts may be as fountains of tears for your everlasting welfare when we shall be in our poor cottages in the wilderness, overshadowed with the spirit of supplication, through the manifold necessities and tribulations which may not altogether unexpectedly, nor, we hope, unprofitably, befall us. And so commending you to the grace of God in Christ, we shall ever rest

Your assured friends and brethren,



Commentary by the Editor :

While all the esteemed editors before me have reverentially read this letter and enjoyed its style and beauty as an homage to the motherland of England, this editor finds some rude barbs therein as well. For this was written as a parting gesture of a company that was not at all happy with, or desirous of, the attentions of the Church of England and royal authority. The history of New England and America is a tale of continuous struggle against such interference.

The only Biblical reference here compares the outcast Puritans to the church of Philippi, "which was a Colony from Rome" Alas, England had become Rome again with King Charles and Bishop Laud reviving Roman-style ritualism, while suppressing and persecuting preachers of original Christian values as found in the English translations of the Gospel.

Friendship in Christ is expressed, but qualified "HOWSOEVER your judgment is with the Lord, and your reward with YOUR God."

There is even some crude physical humor here. The milk of the English church is a metaphorical pun for PAP and popery, and years of persecution by the Crown-Church of England had already expressed the movement of their "bowels of compassion" upon the Puritans.

Today we can scarcely imagine the determination and sacrifice given by these prosperous folks who abandoned their comfortable English homes to go and suffer in wigwams in a distant wilderness. But they could no longer practice their faith in England due to the persecution enforced under King Charles, and their choice was God OR country. Thus so plainly put before them by King and Church, their decision was to abandon their country, and entrust their destiny to God's Providence. Clearly these people were touched by God to a degree that few of us then or now can comprehend, and they gave themselves up willingly as tools of God's work, the foundation of our Nation.

If any readers yet think this Puritan parting from England was anything less than a vigorous rejection of the old world and its institutions, they may here read between the lines. If still in doubt, they may study the history of old England, 1630-1650, when ultimately the passionate indignation behind such verbal subtleties became manifest, and a bloody Civil War erupted over the principles of civil, political and religious freedoms.

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