William Brewster is portrayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda holding an open Bible, in the painting “Embarkation of the Pilgrims.” William Brewster is also portrayed in the Rotunda giving thanks to God in the “Frieze of American History” depiction of “The Landing of the Pilgrims.” William Brewster is depicted as representing “religion” in a thematic painting located in the president’s room of the Senate Wing.
William Brewster was a leader of the Pilgrim church in England. He was arrested and jailed by Britain’s oppressive government which denied liberty of conscience and religious freedom. William Brewster fled with the Pilgrims to Holland, and 12 years later, sailed with them to America. William Brewster signed the Mayflower Compact.
Governor Bradford wrote of him: “Mr. Brewster … lived in the country … till the Lord revealed Himself further to him. In the end, the tyranny … against godly preachers … in silencing … and persecuting … caused him … to feel the burden of … many anti-christian corruptions. …”
Governor Bradford continued: “After they had joined themselves together in communion … William Brewster was a special help and support to them. On the Lord’s day they generally met at his house, which was a manor. … He entertained them with great kindness when they came, providing for them at heavy expense. … He was the leader of those who were captured at … Lincolnshire, suffering the greatest loss, and was one of the seven who were kept longest in prison and afterwards bound over to the assizes.”
Governor Bradford wrote further of William Brewster: “After he came to Holland he suffered much hardship, having spent most of his means. … Towards the latter part of those twelve years spent in Holland, William Brewster’s circumstances improved … for through his knowledge of Latin he was able to teach many foreign students English. … Both Danes and Germans came to him, some of them being sons of distinguished men. …”
On Dec. 15, 1617, William Brewster and Pastor John Robinson wrote a letter from Leiden, Holland, to London financier Sir Edwin Sandys, explaining the Pilgrims were: “Knit together as a body in … covenant of the Lord … we so hold ourselves … tied to all care of each other’s good. …”
Governor Bradford eulogized further of William Brewster: “He labored in the fields as long as he was able. … When the church had no other minister he taught twice every Sabbath, and that both powerfully and profitably, to the great edification and comfort of his hearers, many being brought to God by his ministry.”
In 1629, after the Pilgrims founded a church in Massachusetts Bay, William Brewster wrote: “The church that had been brought over the ocean now saw another church, the first-born in America, holding the same faith in the same simplicity of self-government under Christ alone.”
William Brewster died April 18, 1644, as Governor Bradford wrote: “About the 18th of April died their reverend elder … Mr. William Brewster, a man who had done and suffered much for the Lord Jesus and the Gospel’s sake, and had borne his part in the weal or woe with this poor persecuted Church for over thirty-five years in England, Holland, and this wilderness. … Notwithstanding the many troubles and sorrows he passed through, the Lord upheld him to a great age.”
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