RCC Honors History Project

Reverend William Symonds sermon in 1609

Posted by creyes24 on September 29, 2009

William Symonds, “Virginia:  A Sermon Preached at White Chapel” (1609)

 

 

            Since the reign of Henry VIII, the crown had controlled the Church of England (also known as the Established or “Anglican” Church).  King James, like Queen Elizabeth before him, used the church to build popular support for his programs.  When the colony at Jamestown, Virginia faltered in 1609 for lack of money and settlers, the King ordered the Church’s ministers to encourage emigration and investment in the colonies.  The sermon that the Reverend William Symonds delivered at White Chapel in London, 25 April 1609, did just that.  It so impressed the King and “The Adventurers and Planters for Virginia” (the company that owned the colony) that they published and distributed it widely.

            Symonds argues that the English, as God’s chosen people, had a right and an obligation to colonize the New World.  He promises them the same bright future in Virginia that God promised Abraham in the land of Canaan.  Symonds attacked everyone who opposed England’s colonial endeavors:  Spain, France, Catholics, Indians, pacifists, and Baptists.  England alone had a sacred mission to spread the Gospel and to inhabit the world and make it fruitful.

            Symonds ministered to a congregation of merchants and artisans in London.  He was, like many of his parishoners, a Puritan, but King James, who hated Puritans, ordered Symonds in 1606 to conform to the non-Puritan beliefs and practices of the Established Church.  Symonds did.  Symonds left London in 1614 for Lincolnshire, a remote county where he could follow his conscience and avoid official scrutiny.  Note, however, that many Puritan ministers refused to conform in 1606 to the dictates of the Anglican church.  Those ministers lost their posts and risked fines, imprisonment, and exile.  Symonds did not want to run those risks.  His sermon may have been an effort to curry favor with the King.

 

 

EPISTLE DEDICATORIE

 

            To the Right Noble and Worthie Advancers of The Standard of Christ, among the Gentiles, The Adventurers for the Plantation of Virginia, W[illiam] S[ymonds] prayeth that Nations may blesse them, and be blessed by them.

            Right Noble and Worthy, such as do prayse the worthies do cloth them with the robes of others that have gone before them in vertues of like nature.  A thing which I cannot doe of your Plantation, seeing neither Testment (that I can find) dooth afford us a Parallel in men of like qualities. . . .

            This land was of Old time offered to Our Kings.  Our late Soveraigne Q.  Elizabeth (whose storie hath no peere among Princes of her sexe) being a pure Virgin, found it, set foot in it, and called it Virginia.  Our most sacred Soveraigne, in whom is the spirit of his great Ancestor, Constantine the pacifier of the World, and planter of the Gospell in places most remote, desireth to present this land a pure Virgine to Christ.  Such as do manage the expedition, are carefull to carry thither no traitors, nor Papists that depend on the Great Whore.  Lord finish this Good work thou hast begun; and marry this land, a pure Virgine to thy Kingly son Christ Jesus; so shall thy name be magnified; and we shall have a Virgin or Maiden Britaine a confortable addition to our Great Britaine.

            And now Right Worthy, if any aske an account of my vocation, to write and Preach thus much; I answere:  that although I could not satisfie their request that would have me goe; yet I could not omit to shewe my zeale to the glory of God. . . .

 

VIRGINEA BRITANNIA

 

            For the Lord had said unto Abram, get thee out of thy Countrey, and from thy Kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the Land that I will shew thee.

            And I will make thee a great nation, and will blesse thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing.

            I will blesse them also that blesse thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12.1.2.3.)

            This Book of Genesis containeth the story of the Creation and Plantation of heaven and earth with convenient inhabitants.  The heaven hath Angels, the skie starres, the aire fowles, the water fishes, the earth (furnished with plants and herbes and beasts) was provided for man a while to inhabite, who after was to be received into Glory, like unto the Angels (Matth. 22.30.)  Hereupon the Lord. . . did make man both male and female, After his owne image, that is Jesus Christ (2. Cor. 4.4.), and gave them this blessing, Bring forth fruit and multiplie, and fill the earth, and subdue it, &c. (Gen. 1.26.27.28.).  And howsoever this precept might seeme to find interruption by the sinne of man, that had incurred the curse to die the death (Gen. 2.17 & 3.3): yet we see that God would not, for any thing, alter his oath and word, that was gone out of his mouth (Isai. 45.23.): for unto Noah he revived this precept after the flood. . .

            Now if it be demaunded how Abraham was called, to go into another Countrey: the answer is, both ordinarily and extraordinarily.  It was a knowne rule of the word of God, concluded, and pronounced before the Creation, and often repeated afterwards, that man should spread abroad &c. and inhabite the earth, and fill it (Gen. 9.12.).  Hith- his Countrey by a generall calling, the same doth binde all his sonnes, according to the faith, to go likewise abroad, when God doth not otherwise call them to some special affaires. . .: Go teach (saith he) all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father the Sonne and the holy Ghost (Matth. 28.19.).  Gave he this Commandment to his Apostles only? have not also the labours of godly Preachers, which they have spread over the face of the whole earth, been bestowed by the power of this Commandment?  And though the words, as they lie, do bind the Ministers of the Word, to endeavour the propagation of the Gospell, with all their power; yet not only them: For we reade, that poor Tentmakers and others have done much good in spreading the Gospell, according to their vocations (Acts 19.3.26.); they also satisfying thus much of Christ’s precept.  Neither can there be any doubt, but that the Lord that called Abraham into another Countrey doeth also by the same holy hand call you to go and carry the Gospell to a Nation that never heard of Christ.  The prophet Zachary, speaking of the days of the Gospell, doth shew, that it is a good Vocation for men to go abroad when the number of the Children of God do exceede. . . . Unto whom agreeth the Prophet Isaiah: The children of thy barrennesse shall say againe, in thine eares, the place is too strait for me, give me place, that I may dwell (Isai. 49.20.).  Wherefore seeing that, thanks be to God, we are thronged with multitudes; the Lord of hostes himselfe hath given us the calling of his children to seeke for roome, and place to dwell in.

            And heer might we have proceeded to the next point were if not for one scruple which some that think themselves to be very wise do cast in our way; which is this in effect.  The countrey, they say, is possessed by owners, that rule, and governe it in their own right; then with what conscience, and equitie can we offer to thrust them, by violence out of their inheritances?

            For answer to this objection: first it unto belongeth that, which God said: Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the Fish of the Sea, and over the Fowles of Heaven, and over the Beastes, and over ALL the earth (Gen. 1.26.).  Then must he replenish the earth, else can he not rule over ALL.  To the same effect is that spoken of Adam, after his fall, that God sent him forth of the Garden of Eden to till the earth (Gen. 3.23.): so that the fall of Adam did not, in the least thing, cause the Lord to alter his first decree.  So to Noah after the flood; Bring forth fruite, and multiply, grow plentifully in the earth, and encrease therein, and replenish the earth (Gen. 9.2.7.).  By all this it doth appeare, that God did call Abraham abroade, by a general Vocation.  But when he is called to a certaine place, and under certaine conditions, it is also plaine he had a special and extradordinary calling. . . .  Yet still we must remember that this special calling was subject to the general law of replenishing the earth.  For although God called him to one land; yet to upholde the general rule.  God often laide a necessitie upon him to spread further:. . .

            The reason why God will have his to fill the earth is, because the Lord would have his workers to be knowne. . . .  When David saith, All thy workers praise thee, O God, and thy Saints blesse thee; they shew the glory of thy kingdome, and speake of thy power (Psal. 145.10.12.): the implication is manifest, that his Saints must be witnesses of all his workes, in all Climates; for else they cannot blesse him in all his workes.  Another reason is, that one that hath the knowledge of the feare of God, should communicate it to others. . . . Marke this, that he biddeth us to pray, God be mercifull unto us; The meanes how, is this: That they may know thy way upon earth, and thy saving health among all nations (Psal. 67.2.); whereby he doth imply, that God hath with-held some mercy from us, till all nations have the means of salvation. . . .

            Then here must we know that what inducement Abraham had to go out of is plain, that the objector supposeth it not lawfull to invade the territories of other princes, by force of sword. . . .  Come forth ye great Princes and Monarches of Assyria, Persia, Media, Greece and Rome with your gravest counsellours, and answer for your facts in conquering and subduing nations.  For your stories, that were wont to be read with singular admiration of your fortitude, your wisdom, your magnificence, and your great justice, are now araigned and must bee found guiltie, that through your sides an action of truer honour than ever you attempted may bee wounded.  Your strong title of the sword, heretofore magnified by Historians, Politicians, and Civilians, is to our objector, but a spiders web, or the hatching of a Cockatrice his egge.  But whatsoever the rest can say for their own defence, the Lord himself doth say thus much for Cyrus: Thus sath the Lord unto Cyrus, his anointed: whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him: therefore will I weaken the lynes of Kings, and open the doores before him, and the gates shall not be shut: I will give thee the treasures of darkenesse, and the things hid in secret places; that thou maist know, that I am the Lord, which call thee by thy name, even the God of Israell . . . (Isai, 45.1.2.3.).  Then who can blame Cyrus, and keep himself from blaspheming the almightie.

            Nay, that which is more to be trembled at, we must also to summon up and call to the bar the most holy worthies of the Scripture: and see if man, or God, hath any thing to be said for them, why they should not be condemned as injust, cruell, and bloudy.  O Jacob,  thy blessed bow and sword, with the fruit whereof thou blessedest thy son Joseph, the staff of thy gray head and feeble knees must be broken and burnt: and thou must be condemned for thy unlawful conquest (Gen. 48.22.).  Worthy Joshuah, & most worthy David with thy cloud of worthies, who hanged up so many shields in the house of God, and who sweetly singeth that God was his fortitude and buckler (Psal. 18.2; Josh. 10.14.) must incuree the note of injustice. . . .  Nay thou glory of men and true type of Christ, King Solomon, whose wisdome was like unto the wisedome of God: teach us to say somewhat in thy defence. . . .  Give an account of his innocence that said unto thee: Girde thee with thy sworde upon thy thigh, O thou most mightie,–Thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things,–The people shall fall under thee (Psal. 45.3.4.5.).  Thy father, the son of Ishai, made a sinfull prayer for thee (as our objectors blaspheme) when he said, thou shouldest so enlarge thy borders, that Thy dominion should be from sea to sea and from the river to the end of the land.  He would have thee too rigid when he saith, That thine enemies should lick the dust. . . .

            I know that the divell himselfe, with allhis distinctions that ever he made, which are recorded in Sceipture, or which he left in hell, in his cabinet of Abstruse Studies, (locked safe till he found out the Jesuits, his trustie secretaries, to keepe them) I say none of them all can arm a subject against his prince without sin.  But he that will set open his school . . . and take upon him to nurture princes as petties telling them that they must not make offensive warres, if it were to gaine the whole world to Christ, shall never be bidders of guests to the marriage of the kings sonne (Matth. 22.2), who are required to compell them to come in (Luke 14.23.).  And if I might be so bold, I would faine aske one question of these objectors, that come dropping out of some Anabaptist Spicery: whether (if it be unlawfull to conquer) the crowne sit well on the head of our most sacred soveraigne?  For by this objection they shew, that had they power to untwist that, which in so many ages hath been well spun, they would write him crownless, as far as he hath his title from, the conqueror.

            O but God forbid, saith the objector, that wee should doe any wrong at all, no not to the divell . . . But to the point:  our objector would not whip a child to teach him learning and vertue, fore feare of doing wrong.  What wrong, I pray you, did the Apostles in going about to alter the lawes of nations, even against the expresse commandement of the princes, and to set up the throne of Christ.  If your mouth be so foul to charge them with wrong, as the Gentiles did, we have more need to provide you a medicine for a cankred mouth, and a stincking breath, then to make you any answer at all.

            O but, in entering of other countries, there must needs be much lamentable effusion of bloud.  Certainly our objector was hatched of some popish egge; & it may be in a JESUITS vault, where they feed themselves fat with tormenting innocents. . . .  And if these objectors had any braines in their head but those which are sick, they could easily finde a difference between a bloudy invasion and the planting of a peaceable Colony in a waste country where the people do live but like Deer in herds and have not as yet attained unto the first modestic that was in Adam, that knew he was naked, where they know no God but the divell, nor sacrifice, but to offer their men and children unto Moloch. . . . Is onely now the ancient planting of Colonies, so highly praised among the Romans, and all other nations, so vile and odious among us, that what is, and hath bene a vertue in all others, must be sinne in us?  And if our objecter bee descended of the Noble Saxons bloud, Let him take heede lest while he cast a stone at us, he wounds his father, that first brought him in his loynes from forreigne parts into this happie Isle. . . .

            The children of Israel that were in the wilderness, readie to perish if God withdrew his miraculous hand, like a stiffnecked people as they were, refused to goe, fell into a mutiny, and made a commotion, upon the newes that the Land had fenced cities, and walled townes exceeding great.  And because there were the sonnes of Anak (Num. 13:29.):  mightie Giants that were armed in Brasse, & their speare like a Weavers cloth beam.  For they forget the God that brought them out of Egypt, and that made the raging waves of the sea to stand in heaps and take the office of strong walls, that they might easily march through upon drie land.  They forget that God was the creator of the mountains, whereof one of the least is stronger than all the sons of Anak.  They forget that God putteth away all the ungodly of the earth like drosse.  But we should be worse than mad to be discouraged by any such imaginations of this place.  There are but poore Arbors for Castles, base and homely sheds for walled townes.  A Mat is their strongest Portcullis, a naked brest their strongest Portcullis, a naked brest their Target of best proofe, an arrow of reade, on which is no iron, their most fearful weapon of offence, here is no feare of nine hundred iron chariots. . . .Wherefore, seeing we are contented when the King doth press us out to war, to go we know not whither, nor under whom, and can propose no thing unto us but to fight with a mightie enemie: Let us be cheerfull to go to the place that God will shew us to possess in peace and plentie, a Land more like the Garden of Eden, which the Lord planted, then any part else of all the earth.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: