I first read The Pilgrim Church some years ago. I think I’ve now read it three times. The period covered is from Pentecost to the early 1900’s. Yes it’s Church history and contains many names, dates and places, but it is more special than a simple account of facts and figures. Firstly, because it left me with a very distinct empathy with many of the peoples mentioned in the book and a sense of ‘I know who my true brothers and sisters in Christ were now’. It is full of accounts of many personal struggles and trials of faith, “and they loved not their lives unto the death.” I know that accounts of persecution can be very unsettling to some people but through it all you’re usually left with a great sense of awe and victory. It is not a book about persecution but that is unfortunately a part of the story. I have sometimes skipped over some of those parts having seen the general picture and just moved on with the story.
The Pilgrim Church introduced me to many peoples, groups of churches and ‘movements’ I had not previously heard of at the time I first read it. As I say though, it is not a database of dry statistics. I’ve learnt through this that many of the ‘unknowns’ not included in ‘popular’ Church histories were actually the true and faithful ones in Christ. As I understand, these people such as, the Waldenses, Albigenses, Lollards and Bogomils (some of their names were given to them by their oppressors) and numerous others are often either overlooked in many Church history books or are painted in a bad light. Throughout the ages the ‘official’ Church refers to them as ‘heretics’ and considers them to be their bane. Such was the intensity of hatred for them that whole armies were gathered and sent to wipe out entire populations in an attempt to ‘cleanse’ the ‘Church’ from these ‘vile corrupters’. Please don’t get the wrong impression here; the book spends much time in details of glorious salvations and outpourings of the Holy Spirit. There are times of peace and times of war, times of victory and times of defeat. It’s very ‘real’ and very objective.
How is that Broadbent’s account differs from many others then? He travelled extensively gathering what he could from various sources and directly from those who were descendants of ‘the pilgrim church’. He reads between the lines of the accounts given by ‘their enemies’, which of course would not paint them in any favourable light. There were some preserved, written records, which clearly expose the tyrannical behaviour of much of the ‘official’ Church. Interestingly, I recall reading somewhere that many of these have since ‘disappeared’ since Broadbent’s days. The recently (1999) reissued edition of The Pilgrim Church has an excellent foreword by Dave Hunt. He also makes mention there of records no longer being in circulation. What makes this account so valuable is that it drew upon sources that were available in the Author’s day (he lived from 1861 – 1945), much of which does not seem to be now in circulation.
This book is about ‘real’ Church history. It needs to be read right through and not kept solely for reference, but will do very nicely for that purpose afterwards.
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Related Reading ~ Bible Study: His Church (study on Biblical Church)