Towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth, ‘a
poor people’ in the north of England
, in towns and villages of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire
, and the borders of Yorkshire
, ‘became enlightened by the word of God;’ and, as ‘presently they were both scoffed and scorned by the profane multitude, and their ministers urged with the yoke of subscription,’ they, by the increase of troubles, were led ‘to see further,’ that not only ‘the beggarly ceremonies were monuments of idolatry,’ but also ‘that the lordly power of the prelates ought not to be submitted to.’
Many of them, therefore, ‘whose hearts the Lord
had touched with heavenly zeal for his truth,’ resolved, ‘whatever it might cost them, to shake off the anti-Christian bondage, and, as the Lord
's free people, to join themselves by a covenant into a church estate in the fellowship of the gospel.’
Of the same faith with Calvin, heedless of acts of parliament, they rejected ‘the offices and callings, the courts and canons’ of bishops, and renouncing all obedience to human authority in spiritual things, asserted for themselves an unlimited and never-ending right to make advances in truth, and ‘walk in all the ways which God had made known or should make known to them.’
The reformed church, having for its pastor John Robinson
, ‘a man not easily to be paralleled,’ were beset and watched night and day by the agents of prelacy.
For about a year, they kept their meetings every Sabbath, in one place or another, exercising the worship of God among themselves, notwithstanding all the diligence and malice of their adversaries.
But, as the humane ever decline to enforce the laws dictated by bigotry, the office devolves on the fanatic or the savage.
Hence the severity of their execution