Escape to Holland

One group of Separatists that did not compromise was found in the small English town of Scrooby. There they met secretly in the home of postmaster William Brewster, their "Ruling Elder." Also associated with them was John Robinson, a former Anglican priest. Besides advocating church government by elders rather than by priests and bishops, the group at Scrooby rejected priestly garb and much of the ritual of Anglican Church services, although these things were required by law.

Under increasing pressure, this small group decided to flee to the Netherlands, at the time the only place in Europe where their opinions and practices would be tolerated. Emigration, however, was illegal. A secretly as possible, therefore, they sold their homes and everything else they could not take along, and in 1608 they went to Amsterdam by ship. It was in the Netherlands that the Separatists began to think of themselves as pilgrims.

The Pilgrims moved to Leiden a year after arriving, the same year that a truce interrupted the war that had been raging between Spain and the Netherlands. The truce resulted in a more peaceful climate for the Pilgrims. Gradually, more fugitives arrived from England, and the group grew to about 300. Eventually, they bought a large house, where John Robinson and his family lived and where they could also hold meetings.

After spending about ten years in Leiden, the Pilgrims began to feel unsettled. The truce with Spain was about to lapse, and they feared that if the Spanish Inquisition gained control in the Netherlands, they would be worse off than they were under King James. Moreover, they disagreed doctrinally with their more liberal Dutch neighbors, and they worried about their children's association with the Dutch youngsters, whom they regarded as dissolute. What should they do? They contemplated another very big move--this time to America!

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