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The Pilgrim Church

By E.H. Broadbent

Edmond Hamer Broadbent (1861-1945) lived at a time when documents and books – many of them now lost or very rear – which told the true story of the Christian church could still be found. His scholarship is attested to by the scores of books in several languages available in his day, from which he drew much of the vital information he has passed on to us. The Pilgrim Church of which he writes so eloquently and accurately was persecuted to the death for a thousand years before the Reformation. The story has been almost lost to the present generation and desperately needs to be retold.

The earliest groups of whom he writes were not “Protestants” (a disparaging epithet which only came into existence at the Reformation), but simple Christians who sought to follow God’s Word as their final authority. They did not submit to the Roman papacy, which by force of arms imposed an “official Christianity” upon the entire known world at that time. The persecutors and murderers of these true followers of Christ did their best to destroy the truth concerning the beliefs and practices of their victims. The lies the inquisitors told about these martyrs became part of “official church history,” and are to this day maintained in the most popular and available sources. For that reason we are deeply indebted to Broadbent for his diligence in searching out the truth and passing it along to us.

In addition to the story of these early Christians, Broadbent includes all the chronicle of all of those who came out of the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the Reformation. And he brings the history of the Pilgrim Church into the early 1900s. This is not an account of denominations, but of the Christian faith and those who sought to adhere to Scripture in their practice of Christianity, not only independently of Rome but of Protestant authorities as well. Their failures are faithfully recorded along with their triumphs.

Much of the history of faith and persecution the author uncovered in his wide travels was the precious possession of believers to whom it was handed down from generation to generation by the descendants of those who remained true to Christ in times when the popes still controlled the known world. Broadbent has searched out the information and preserved it in this valuable volume. He did not write merely on the basis of historical library research, though he did a great of that, he wrote also from a very wide and practical experience. He was fluent in French and German and had some knowledge of Russian, and his zeal to preach the gospel took him throughout Europe, the Baltic’s and Russia and as far East as Turkestan Uzbekistan, into Turkey, Egypt and North and South America.

In the course of preaching the Gospel and establishing groups of Christian converts who sought to follow the Scriptures independently of the state churches which had come out of the Reformation, Broadbent had contact with many believers whose ancestors had been part of the very Pilgrim Church of whom he wrote. He also had first hand experience of the persecution which for centuries those who had never been part of “official Christianity” had endured.

For example, in the early 1900’s he participated in “illegal” meetings in Bavaria, where the Roman Catholic Church still had such oppressive laws had been enacted prohibiting “unauthorized Christian meetings” even in homes for prayer. Throughout Germany there was pressure upon independent gatherings of the Pilgrim Church to make it comply with state regulations requiring that all Christians must be part of some officially recognized organization. In keeping with its heritage, the Pilgrim Church did not comply.

Broadbent’s passion for adhering strictly to Scripture was evident in the many independent churches which he was privileged to found nearly everywhere he went. Another of his great joys was to discover throughout his travels groups of believers who, while unaware of thousands of other similar groups around the world, held in common the desire to follow the Lord and His Word alone rather than a man made organization. Thus he had firsthand contact with the Pilgrim Church of which he wrote and saw what he considered to be biblical Christianity in practice in a wide variety of settings and cultures.

While some readers may consider the authors convictions concerning separation from all humanly organized religions a bit extreme, he does not attempt to force his views upon his audience. Nor does he embrace the exclusivism of the offshoots of the early Brethren movement. Instead in reporting on that movement as part of the Pilgrim Church, he accurately portrays its problems and divisions, just as he does for other elements in the body of Christ through history.

Ours is a day of ecumenism which seeks to establish an unbiblical unity denying the very separation from error for which the Pilgrim Church suffered and died. Leading evangelicals would have us believe either that the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of salvation has changed, or that it has always been biblical, in spite of it’s official declarations (consistently for centuries and still today) to the contrary and its persecution of those who adhere to biblical truth.

That persecution is still going on in Latin America, parts of Europe and other places where Rome is strong enough to impose its will. Both the martyrdom of the Pilgrim Church for 1,500 years and the Reformation are being presented as a symantec misunderstanding that should never have occurred between those who actually believed the same thing but didn’t know it. Evangelical leaders have gone so far as to join hands with Roman Catholics in proclaiming the gospel to the world.

The Pilgrim Church sets the record straight. It is a volume we have longed to see back in print after being unavailable for some years. It is all the more needed now than when it was first published more than 60 years ago. We commend it to readers as an accurate account and on which we hope and pray will open eyes to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the necessity of standing on the truth without compromise for the sake of the eternal destiny of souls. It is our hope and prayer, too, that this volume will inspire all of as to a deeper love for our Lord and His Word and a renewed commitment to go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

 

Dave Hunt

Bend, Oregon

February 24, 1999