“To goe likewise abroad”; an excerpt from Virginea Britannia. A Sermon Preached At White Chappel, In The presence of many the Adventurers, and Planters for Virginia by Reverend William Symonds (1609)


On April 25, 1609, the Reverend William Symonds preached a sermon at London’s White Chapel in defense of the Virginia Company of London‘s efforts to sustain its colony at Jamestown. In this excerpt, Symonds focuses on the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, comparing it to England’s call to settle America. He then responds at length to those who object that England had no right to invade “the territories of other princes, by force of sword.” Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.


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For the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy Countrey, and from thy kindred, and from thy fathers 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.

This Booke of Genesis conteineth the story of the Creation and Plantation of heaven and earth, with convenient inhabitants. The heaven hath Angels, the skie starres, the aire foules, the water fishes, the

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earth (furnished with plants and hearbes, and beasts) was provided for man a while to inhabite, who after was to be received into glory, like unto the Angels. Hereupon the Lord (who by his great decree, set downe by his whole Trinitie, had determined that man should rule among the creatures) did make man, both male and female, After his owne image, that is, Jesus Christ; and gave them this blessing, Bring forth fruit and multiplie, and fill the earth, and subdue it, &c. And howsoever this precept might seeme to finde interruption by the sinne of man, that had incurred the curse to die the death: yet we see that God would not, for any thing, alter his oath and word, that was gone out of his mouth; for unto Noah he revived this precept after the flood.


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The Lord called Abraham to goe into another Countrey. There is no doubt, but that there is a double manner of calling; the one ordinary, by some knowne precept of the word of God: the other extraordinary when as by dreame, or by vision, God requireth any duetie to be done. Now if it be demaunded how Abraham was called, to goe into another Countrey: the answere is, both ordinarily and extraordinary. It was a knowne rule of the word of God, concluded, and pronounced before the Creation, and often repeated afterwards,

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that man should spread abroad, &c. and inhabite the earth, and fill it. Hitherto 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 the Heaven, and over the Beastes, and over ALL the earth. Then must he replenish the earth, else can hee 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: 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. 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, that withall, he had a special and extraordinary calling, either by dreame or by vision, or by some such extraordinary meane, which (til the Canon of the Scripture came fully in) was to be obeyed as the written word of God. Yet still wee must remember that this speciall calling was subject to the generall law of resplenishing the earth. For although God called him to one land; yet to upholde the generall rule, God often laide a necessitie upon him to spread further: for in this Chapter, by reason of a famine, hee was constreined to sojourne in Egipt: God did also tell him before hand, this his seede should be a stranger, in a land that is not theirs, four hundred yeares: It is true, that the Jewes did holde themselves so confined to their owne

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land, that they were as loth to forgoe their inheritance, as from the Sacrament of their salvation: witnes be Naboth, that answered the King; The Lord keepe me from giving the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. And yet, when God would have it so, as when there was famine, Elimelech and his Familie goe to sojourne among the Gentiles. In time of warre David tooke his father and mother, and carried them to sojourne with the King of Moab. And when as we reade that there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jewes of every nation under heaven; it is plaine, that the Jewes did spread abroad, not onely to sojourne for a time, and then to come againe; but to inhabite and resplenish the whole earth. Paul was also a Jew, borne in Cilicia, even in a Romane Colonie.

The reason why God will have his to fill the earth is, because the Lord would have his workes to be knowne. Now in divers Countries God hath his divers workes, of hearbes, and trees, and beastes, and fishes, and fowles, and serpents, &c. which (if the people of God come not there) cannot praise the Creator. When David saith, All thy workes praise thee, O God, and thy Saints blesse thee; they shew the glory of thy kingdome, and speake of thy power: 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: Hereupon is it that David doeth teach us to pray thus: Have

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mercie on us Lord, and blesse us, and cause thy face to shine among us, Selah. Marke this, that he biddeth us 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; whereby he doth imply, that God hath with-held some mercy from us, til all nations have the meanes of salvation. This was a cause why God sent Abrahams posterity into Egipt, that by their meanes Pharaoh, whose heart was bigge, and would not acknowledge God, might be constrained to fall down, and say, I have sinned against the Lord. The cause also of the captivity of the Jewes in Babilon, in the secrete providence of God, was, that the Monarkes of the world, who thought there was no God could come neere them in greatnes, might be as beastes before God, acknowledging, that it is God, that giveth the Kingdomes to whom he will. And when the Lord had caused his people to returne, and to build their Citie and Temple; yet would not God fore-slowe the inforcing of his precept, Fill the earth. For whereas, by reason of his promise, he could not send the people abroad till Christ came, to make his glory knowne, he brought upon them Gog and Magog, with their numbersome Armies: The reason is, that the Heathen may knowe the Lord: I wil be magnified, and sanctified, and knowne in the eyes of many Nations. Then here must wee know, that what inducement Abraham had, to goe out of his Countrey, by a generall calling, the same doth binde all his sonnes, according to the faith, to goe likewise abroad, when God doth not otherwise

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call them to some speciall affaires: How ever, still they must have a longing, and a liking to spread the Gospel abroad. And that this point may be evidently convicted unto us, Christ our Saviour hath, according to his infinite wisedome, revived the olde law, of filling the earth, in a most excellent manner: Goe teach (saith he) all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Sonne, and the holy Ghost. Gave hee this Commaundement to his Apostles onely? have not also the labours of godly Preachers, which they have spread over the face of the whole earth, beene bestowed by the power of this Commandement? And though the words, as they lie, doe binde the Ministers of the Word, to endevour the propagation of the Gosepell, with all their power; yet not onely them: For we reade, that poore Tent-makers and others, have done much good in spreading the Gospell, according to their vocations: they also satisfying thus much of Christs 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 goe and carry the Gospell to a Nation that never heard of Christ. The Prophet Zachary, speaking of the daies of the Gospell, doth shew, that is a good Vocation for men to goe abroad, when the number of the children of God doe exceede […] Unto whom agreeth the Prophet Isaiah: The children of thy barrennesse shall say againe, in thine eare, the place is

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too strait for me, give me place, that I may dwell. Wherefore seeing that, thankes 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 heere 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 is plaine, that the objecter supposeth it not lawfull to invade the territories of other princes, by force of sword. This proposition I confesse I never was willing to examine, considering my vocation is private. And if Sigismund, the Emperour, said well, that he merveiled every man avoided all labors and difficulties, but onely to rule, which is the most difficult of all other labours; then to give sentence of that, which in ruling is the most waightie, namely, warres, which are done with the greatest counsell, must needes bee a labour too heavie for a private mans shoulders. And because my selfe am but weake eyed in so great a mysterie; Come foorth ye great Princes, and Monarkes, of Assyria, Persia, Media, Greece and Rome, with your gravest counsellours, and answere for your facts, in conquering and subduing nations. For your stories, that were wont to be read with singular admiration of your forti-

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tude, your wisedome, your magnificence, and your great justice, are now araigned, and must bee found guiltie, that through your sides, an action, of truer honour, then ever you attempted, may bee wounded. Your strong title of the sword, heeretofore magnified by Historians, Polititians, and Civilians, is to our objecter, but a spiders web, or the hatching of a Cockatrice his egge. But whatsoever the rest can say for their owne defence, the Lord himselfe doth say this much for Cyrus: Thus saith the Lord unto Cyrus, his anointed: whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him: therefore will I weaken the loynes of Kings, and open the doores before him, and the gates shall not be shut: I will goe before thee, and make the crooked straight: I will breake the brasen doors, and burst the yron barres. And 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. For Jacob my servants sake, and Israell mine elect, I will even call thee by thy name, and name thee, though thou hast not knowen me. Then who can blame Cyrus, and keepe himselfe from blaspheming the almightie. Nay, that which is more to be trembled at, we must also to summon up, and call to the barre, 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 blessedst thy sonne Joseph, the staffe of thy gray head, and feeble knees, must be broken and

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burnt: and thou must be condemned for thy unlawful conquest. 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, must incuree the note of injustice […] Nay thou glory of men, and true type of Christ, King Salomon, whose wisedome was like unto the wisedome of God: teach us to say somewhat in thy defence […] Give an account of his innocencie 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. 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 […]

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I know that the divell himselfe, with all his distinctions, that ever he made, which are recorded in scripture, or which he left in hell, in his cabinet of Abstruse Studies, (locked safe, till hee found out the Jesuits his trustie secretaries to keepe them:) I say none of them all can arm a subject against his prince without sinne. 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, who are required to compell them to come in. 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? (whose dayes be as the dayes of heaven O Lord) For by this objection they shew, that had they power to untwist that, which in so many ages hath beene well spunne, they would write him crowneless, as farre as hee hath his title from, the conqueror.

O but God forbid, saith the objecter, that wee should doe any wrong at all, no not to the divell […]

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But to the point: our objecter would not whip a child to teach him learning and vertue, for 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 foule, to charge them with wrong, as the Gentiles did, we have more neede to provide you a medicine for a cankred mouth, and a stincking breath, then to make you any answere at all.

O but, in entring of other countries, there must needs be much lamentable effusion of bloud. Certainly our objecter was hatched of some popish egge; & it may be in a JESUITS vault, where they feed themselves fat with tormenting innocents […]

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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 Deere in heards and, (no not in this stouping age, of the gray headed world, ful of yeres and experience) have not as yet attained unto the first modestie 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 […]

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The children of Israell that were in the wildernesse, 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: mightie Giants that were armed in Brasse, & their speare like a Weavers cloth beam. For they forgat the God that brought them out of Egypt, and that made the raging waves of the sea to stand in heapes, and take the office of strong walles, that they might easily march through upon drie land. They forgat that God was the creator of the mountaines, whereof one of the least, is stronger than all the sonnes of Anak. They forget that God putteth away all the ungodly of the earth like drosse. But we should be worse then mad, to bee 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 Target of best proofe: an arrow of reede, on which is no iron their most fearefull weapon of offence, heere is no feare of nine hundreth iron charets […]

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Wherefore seeing we are contented, when the King doth presse us out to warre, 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 bee cheerefull to goe 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.

April 25, 1609
The English minister William Symonds publishes Virginia: a sermon preached at Whitechapel in the presence of … Adventurers and Planters for Virginia. In it, he compares God's call to Abraham in Genesis 12 to England's call to settle Virginia.
APA Citation:
Symonds, Reverend William. “To goe likewise abroad”; an excerpt from Virginea Britannia. A Sermon Preached At White Chappel, In The presence of many the Adventurers, and Planters for Virginia by Reverend William Symonds (1609). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Symonds, Reverend William. "“To goe likewise abroad”; an excerpt from Virginea Britannia. A Sermon Preached At White Chappel, In The presence of many the Adventurers, and Planters for Virginia by Reverend William Symonds (1609)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 30 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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