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John Robinson

English Puritan minister

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Biography

Robinson is known as the pastor to the Pilgrim Fathers because of his involvement with the Pilgrims before and after their journey to New England. Robinson became a curate at St. Andrews Church, Norwich, in 1602, but was suspended from preaching after refusing to conform to the Anglican anti-Puritan decrees of 1604. In 1606 or 1607 he joined the Nonconformist/Puritan congregation at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire. The Nonconformists wanted to separate from the Church of England in order to follow what they believed to be purer and more simplified forms of church government and worship. Believing that the Reformation had not gone far enough, the Puritans wished to remove all aspects of worship that were not based on the Scripture. Forms of worship that did not meet this rigid standard were considered popish, superstitious, and sacrilegious.

Increased persecution forced the Scrooby congregation to flee to Amsterdam in 1608. In 1609 Robinson settled in Leiden, where he eventually became a member of the university. The religious community in Leiden was sharply divided. The English Puritans were opposed to the harsh predestination stance taken by the Calvinists. Robinson and his congregation were joined in their opposition to predestination and the deterministic stance of Calvinism by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Dutch reformer Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), and others. As pastor at Leiden, Robinson saw his congregation grow to three hundred members, one of whom, William Bradford (1590-1657), would become the governor of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. By 1617 Robinson and others were discussing the possibility of emigrating to America. Robinson died in 1625 before he was able to go to New England. Nonetheless, he was an important moral and spiritual force in the preparations for the voyage and in inspiring the Pilgrims. His congregation was absorbed into the Dutch Reformed church in 1658.

Robinson's influence persisted in both the New World and Europe in his writings and printed sermons, the most famous being A Justification of Separation from the Church of England (1610), Of Religious Communion, Private and Public (1614), and his more tolerant On the Lawfulness of Hearing Ministers in the Church of England (1635).

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