The frustrations and obstacles were endless. Just before they left they were forced to pay an added fee. Bradford wrote in a letter, "We are in such a strait at present, as we are forced to sell away 60 worth of our provisions..." that put them into "great extremities…." They had to sell things that they desperately needed in the new world. Finally this little group of people who had no money and practically no personal possessions set off to a savage world in the middle of autumn. In Luke 13 we read of the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Jesus said, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches." Who could have seen that this little band of people were the mustard seed of the great tree of America that in the future would be the greatest nation on earth inspiring the world with its freedom and wealth.
The Pilgrims had true commitment. Their faith saw them through. Their situation was desperate. They traveled in the fall which made a more dangerous voyage. They did not have money or skills but great courage and firm faith. They were bold. They knew God was with them. All their troubles at sea and in America they saw was a test to weed out the weak and timid. The Strangers were the seeds of secularism. The majority was not religious but the leadership was. Yet they triumphed. Bradford wrote that God was with them and gave them endurance, "Our fathers were Englishman which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice .... Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good! and His mercies endure forever."
It is generally thought by Americans that the Mayflower company was a homogenous religious group. They were a minority and there was considerable friction between the pilgrims and the others.
At first the weather was good, but then came "many fierce storms with which the ship was shrewdly shaken", in Bradford's typically lucid style. The screaming wind, tossing the Mayflower, terrified the Pilgrims. They became exhausted. They were chilled to the bone. Waves of icy water would splash over the ill and frightened passengers, tasting like tears, their hearts pounding as mountains of water pounded the tiny ship. Water crashed about everywhere, and the foul smells reeking among the huddled people made them all sick. It was almost impossible to sleep and every ragged nerve begged for rest.
There were no oilskins or rubber clothing for the crew or the passengers. The only way to dry out when they got wet was to wait until the sun came out. People never undressed or changed clothes all the way across.
They set off in the worst time of the year, when storms raged over the Atlantic. It took twice as long as it would have in good weather. The finally arrived after 66 days instead of the usual 30.
The Mayflower was an undistinguished vessel amid the wealth and learning and prestige in England and Holland. The Pilgrims were safe in Holland. They had money and security, but they gave up their material possessions, their families, their country, and even their lives. The Mayflower carried some of the bravest individuals who ever put to sea. They were young men and women of incredible fortitude. They knew they were part of "the great design." They never for a moment were hesitant or doubting. The delays were maddening and when finally the Mayflower was ready to sail it was in the fall, the worst time of the year. Still they went. God can't wait until everything is picture perfect.
They were mainly uneducated, young and of the lower class. This little band of pioneers looked totally undistinguished, but they were God's chosen people to lay the foundation for America. They were smart in the truest sense because they prayed for guidance from God, gave thanks for every good thing they received, and they pledged to God determination to stand up to any obstacle. They were open to new scientific discoveries. They emphasized God and values over material things. Their leaders were receptive to liberty of thought. The values they cherished were the same ones generations have used and respected.
They were honest and dealt fairly with one another and with all they met. It would not occur to them to be egotistical. Moral courage was a natural part of their daily existence. They never looked back and saw what they were doing as a great mission for God. In the Bible we read that Jesus used ploughing as a metaphor for total dedication to a cause. In Luke 9 we read how strongly he speaks of commitment - even to the point of leaving one's family: "To another he said, 'Follow me.' But he said, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.' Another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.' Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'" The Pilgrims never looked back and never went back. They always advanced.
Ship like a terrible slum
The crowded living conditions, the meager diet, never being able to bathe, stay dry and having to wear the same clothes for two months had undermined their health. Most were coughing and sick. The air in the crowded quarters was nauseating at best and usually simply staggering. They were never warm and dry.
On the long voyage the filthy smell was incredible. There were rats and cockroaches. The flour and ship's biscuits went moldy and produced weevils and maggots. Some ate their biscuits only when it was dark, so that they need not see the bugs in it. There was no bathroom – only buckets. They had no privacy. The tossing and rolling of the ship in rough water made most seasick. The vomit from the seasickness added to the stench. Sea water kept their clothing and blankets wet through the entire voyage.
The fierce winds and storms moved the devout Pilgrim Saints to sing songs for hours at a time. They prayed with tears coursing down their cheeks, terrified but determined to never give up. The Strangers would shout and jeer at the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims thought that God was angered by the sinful beliefs of the Separatists and would sink the ship. The Strangers could not stop the Pilgrims from continuing to sing though.
Even though the ship was crowded, the Pilgrims would have church meetings every morning during the trip.
Tensions were high on the Mayflower's long voyage between the Saints and the Strangers. The sailors hated the pious ways of the Pilgrims "cursing them daily with grievous execrations." The Pilgrims said nothing. One young seaman especially taunted the weak and sick Pilgrims. He was strong and healthy and swore at them. Stepping over and around the crammed men, women, and children, he cracked vicious jokes telling them constantly that he would like to throw them overboard. He taunted the Pilgrims saying he expected to bury half of them at sea. When they gently reproached him, "he would curse and swear most bitterly." One morning he became sick and this "proud and profane young man" was dead by afternoon. He was the only person to die during the voyage. It astonished the crew. The Pilgrims knew this was punishment for persecuting God’s chosen people. They correctly saw everything from a spiritual point of view. Everything had heavenly meaning and heavenly cause and effect.
Bradford wrote, "Thus his curses light on his own head, and it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him." This was a neat Providential sign. Everything that happened to them had providential meaning. To read Bradford and those others who kept a record is like reading the Bible. God's hand was working everywhere.
Like the exodus of Moses
The Pilgrim story is like the exodus of Moses.
It was rare that one ship would travel alone, because it was dangerous for only one ship to make such a long voyage. They were one tiny ship alone on a huge ocean. They had no support but God.
The prospects of victory looked dim for the Pilgrims. They left too late in the season for a fair voyage. They were ignorant of how to survive in a wilderness. But as one writer said, "they had something better than money and skills – stout courage and firm faith."
In the middle of this terror, Elizabeth Hopkins had a baby, Oceanus, named after the ocean.
During one fierce storm halfway across the ocean a main beam cracked under the strain and bent. They feared for their safety. This caused the main deck to leak rain and sea water. The passengers were drenched. Should they go on or turn back? The sailors wanted to turn back, but the Pilgrims broke out a "great iron screw brought out of Holland" to be used for raising houses – and used this mechanical jack to lift the cracked beam in place.
It was not by accident or luck that they had brought a "great iron screw."
After using the jack, they "committed themselves to the will of God, and resolved to proceed."
When the Pilgrims met to conduct their morning devotions on the deck of the Mayflower in the cold dreary winter, they always gave thanks and gave God their pledge to never give up. Brewster had said just before sailing for the New World, "It is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage, or small discontents cause to wish themselves home again. We believe and trust that the Lord's with us, unto whom and whose service we have given ourselves, and that he will graciously prosper our endeavors according to the simplicity of our hearts therein."
Arrive at Cape Cod, Massachusetts - November 21, 1620
After two months of agony, they arrived at is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It was November 21. They had arrived in the dead of winter. The first thing they did was fall on their knees and praise God. Bradford writes these famous words: "Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof."
"But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor people's present condition; and so I think will the reader, too, when he well considers the same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which went before), they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succour. It is recorded in Scripture as a mercy to the Apostle and his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians showed them no small kindness in refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they met with them (as after will appear) were readier to fill their sides full of arrows than otherwise. And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men – and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. Neither could they, as it were, go up to the top of Pisgah [the mountain top where Moses saw Canaan] to view from this wilderness a more goodly country to feed their hopes; for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects. For summer being done, all things stand upon them with a weather-beaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hue. If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world."
Bradford wrote of their determination in simple, virile language reminiscent of the Bible, "What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: ‘Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity,’... ‘Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good: and His mercies endure forever.’ ‘Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, show how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness and His wonderful works before the sons of men.’"
The 40 days from November 21 to the end of the year December 31, would be ones of tragedies and triumphs as they began the search for their new land and begin building their first shelter. On their calendar it was November 11 when they arrived, but November 21 is the day we celebrate because our calendar was updated later. One month later on December 21st of our calendar we celebrate "Forefather's Day" when the first of the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.
They were sailing to Virginia, but God diverted them north. When they arrived, some of the passengers said they could go wherever they pleased. The Pilgrim leaders knew they needed unity to be strong and safe in the New World. They immediately took charge by giving strong decisive leadership.
The Pilgrims took charge immediately and drew up the Mayflower Compact – a document which pledged they would govern themselves by abiding to God's laws.
Some felt they didn't have to honor the papers they signed because they were outside Virginia. They were in New England. The Pilgrims would not allow for mutiny or disunity. They formed a hasty conference. They borrowed Captain Jones’s cabin. William Brewster brought his writing materials. Those who plotted mutiny could hear their voices and the scrabble of a quill pen. Then the Pilgrims gathered the other men.
One book says, "The reading of the Compact was followed by tense discussion. John Carver was the first to step up and sign. The leading Saints followed him. There was a long pause. Would the Strangers accept the agreement? The fate of the settlement hung on their decision."
"With the rattle of his saber, Captain Myles Standish rose up to his full height and then marched to the front of the cabin and set his name down on the side of law and order. Everyone breathed easier. The most prosperous of the Strangers followed him." And then the rest signed.
The minority, as usual in history, dominated the majority. Their unity and strength influenced all the rest to sign it. This small minority group had clear vision and unity that gave them the power to guide the majority. The Mayflower Compact was a document signed for unity under God. It was a document of unification.
The agreement the Pilgrims signed was not with the Virginia Company – a Royal charter. Their agreement was only a business contract in which the financiers had no authority to promulgate ordinances and decrees or to appoint the governor of the colony. So the Pilgrims at Plymouth could invent their own politics. It is significant that the first governor of Plymouth was the first governor in history to be chosen by democratic means in a free election. Of all the political systems, God is for democracy.
The word covenant was a commonly used word at the founding of our nation. In the case of the Pilgrims it meant a solemn agreement between God and an individual. The founding Pilgrims were Biblicists who knew God obeyed his side of an agreement. Deuteronomy 7:9 says: "Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations." God's people are supposed to build for a thousand generations. We are supposed to look far into the future and build an empire for God. Rev. Moon does this.
The fundamental reason America has become so prosperous is because of the covenant of our forefathers. Before the Pilgrims set one foot in the New World they drew up a covenant before God. Before launching their colony they recognized God's sovereignty. They joined with God; they obeyed God. The Mayflower Compact begins in big bold letters "In the Name of God, Amen." They took this vow seriously and other colonies in this new Eden did so as we moved toward nationhood. Prof. Andrew McLaughlin in Foundations of American Constitutionalism writes, "... the word 'covenant' and its significance will appear over and over again as we trace the development of America’s constitutional history.…"
Our forefathers made covenants with God, and America needs to restore,
revive and reaffirm those contracts. God has not changed, but many Americans
have forgotten our agreement with God.
The Mayflower Compact
"We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc."
"Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620."
Bradford then makes a comment that the strangers always complained (Bradford, like all spiritual pioneers has to listen to complaining like Moses did), but the strength of character of the Pilgrims kept them in line: "In these hard and difficult beginnings they found some discontents and murmurings arise amongst some, and mutinous speeches and carriages in other; but they were soon quelled and overcome by the wisdom, patience, and just and equal carriage of things, by the Governor and better part, which clave faithfully together in the main."
In The Mayflower Compact Frank Donovan writes, "the Compact was an extraordinary document for its day, in that it set forth revolutionary new principles. It was a milestone on the long, hard, bloody road from feudalism and the rule of an aristocracy that had dominated the people of the Old World for centuries. It is more remarkable for the attitudes, the beliefs, the ideas, the state of mind -- call it what you will -- of the men who brought it into being than for what is specifically says."
"The key words are, 'to combine ourselves together into a civil body politic ... to enact ... just and equal laws.' This was the first simple and direct written expression in recorded history of what the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau would call the 'social contract' theory of government, the theory on which the government of the United States is based."
"Under the social contract theory of government, laws are not made, nor are the lives of the people ordered, by kings or nobles or appointed counsels, or by a dictatorship of any class or individual. ... At the time the Compact was written such a concept of government was completely radical. There were no such governments in the Old World."
"Another revolutionary principle in the Compact, for the times, is expressed in the words 'just and equal laws.' There had been just laws in England since the time of the Magna Carta, but nowhere in the Old World were there equal laws, at least in their application. The law was one thing for the poor and underprivileged, another for the rich and well born. There were records of poor children in England who were hung for the minor theft of a silver spoon or a watch. But no noble's son was ever hung, or even punished by the law, for such an offense."
Democracy vs. Theocracy
God was behind this budding democracy. He wanted America to be democratic. And God wants his future ideal world to be democratic and free. The Puritans came 10 years after the Pilgrims and created a theocracy. Unfortunately America, in the 20th century, has given government too much power to regulate lives, just as the Puritans did. There are harsh penalties for victimless crimes. This is not God's way. The Pilgrims could be harsh sometimes, as was the world they lived in. But they were far less harsh than the Puritans. America should return to its roots of freedom from heavy government. There are a number of books out that fear Rev. Moon, thinking he will oppress people as the Puritans did when he or his church gains control. The world should not fear Rev. Moon. He is for the use of persuasion, not force, even for what is considered sinful acts. Ironically, some who fear the most use violence against him and his followers such as using forceful kidnapping of adult members called by the misnomer "deprogramming." God's way is not to initiate force and for the use of maximum freedom. Those members of his movement who advocate government regulations of such things as guns, prostitution, drugs, pornography, etc. are only being in the Cain tradition of the Puritans. This is a vast topic and I discuss this fully in my book The Keys to Building the Ideal World. http://www.DivinePrinciple.com.
Just because they wrote and signed the Compact did not mean that there was unity. The first few months at Plymouth were horrendous and the stress was overwhelming. Some people were not very patient and godly but the Pilgrims were magnificent in calming the majority.
When the Pilgrims reached Cape Cod they thanked God for making it over the ocean. They were eager "again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth."
The Pilgrims had brought along a few small boats and a large boat called a shallop to be used for exploring the shore line. The very first landing party, the first expedition to explore the coast was 16 men with musket, sword and armor led by a military man, Captain Myles Standish. 16 men – a providential number. In the Korean War 16 nations fought against communist aggression.
They saw 5 or 6 Indians who fled when they saw the Pilgrims. Standish, always fearless and aggressive, ran after them. The swift running Indians disappeared into the woods.
They roamed around the area and came across a heap of sand. They dug into it and found to their amazement ten large baskets of yellow, red, and blue maize Indian seed corn Indians had left. Without it they would not have survived. The following spring the kernels were used for seed. Those 10 baskets were not there by chance. He did his best to give them the means to survive. Nothing was by coincidence. God was working very closely with them. They knew this was a special providence of God.
Bradford writes, "We had, in all, about ten bushels which will serve us sufficiently for, seed ... it was God's good providence that we found this corn, for else we know not how we should have done." We cannot imagine the terror and soul-searing experience of being alone in a savage wilderness and the feelings of awe and gratitude at how mysteriously God worked in their lives.
They put the corn into the common store "to be kept for seed". The Pilgrims were correct in seeing everything as an intervention of God or Satan. They all knew that this seed corn was a special providence of God. They knew that God was intimately involved all day long in their daily lives.
Bradford said that when the search party brought some of the colorful seed corn back to the ship it made everyone happy. He couldn't help but compare their little band of men to the spies Moses sent into Canaan: "Like the men Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan, they brought with them fruits of the country and showed their brethren. The corn and their safe return made the people marvelously glad, and their hearts encouraged."
God was a partner who they naturally spoke to and offered everything to all day long. God was not distant to them but intimately helping and guiding and even testing them every moment. They understood that a religious way of life is ascetic, sacrificial, and selfless.
Bradford wrote that not only was it a miracle they found the corn but when they came back later on the 2nd expedition, it had snowed and they saw that they would never had seen the corn if they had come just one day later. They landed just in the nick of time. He wrote: "And here is to be noted a special providence of God, and a great mercy to this poor people, that here they got seed to plant them corn the next year, or else they might have starved, for they had none nor any likelihood to get any till the season had been past, as the sequel did manifest. Neither is it likely they had had this, if the first voyage had not been made, for the ground was now all covered with snow and hard frozen; but the Lord is never wanting unto His in their greatest needs; let His holy name have all the praise."
Several historians criticize Bradford and the others for taking the corn. Bradford Smith in his book, Bradford of Plymouth, writes, "Then, with a lack of regard for Indian property which has all too often been the white man's way of introducing himself to a native race" ... "purloined" the corn. Those historians who criticize the Pilgrims for this are wrong. Bradford writes that they had every intention of paying for the corn, and he says they did so six months later to the satisfaction of the Indians. If we see these Pilgrims from God's eyes, then it was clearly a gift from God. I have already wrote of how we are to see the relationship between the white man and the Indian earlier.
Third and final Expedition
After the second exploration they felt that they needed to make a third one and search farther up the coast until they found the right spot to build their community. They had to wait for a while until the shallop got repairs. Finally they set out and went up the coast. Once they saw about a dozen Indians. At night they would make a shelter out of logs and pine boughs and took turns as sentries. One morning at five o'clock they were attacked. They had just finished prayers (which the men always did every morning and evening) and were preparing breakfast and loading the shallop. Arrows whizzed around them. There was terrifying blood curdling screams from the Indians. After a fierce exchange, the Indians retreated. Standish took some of the men and chased after them into the woods about a quarter of a mile. They shouted at the Indians to show them that they were "not afraid of them or any way discouraged." When they came back they were all amazed to see that their coats had been hanging in the barricade and were riddled with arrows and many arrows lying all around. Miraculously no one had even a scratch and they prayed and thanked God for their deliverance.
They continued on their search for the best place to build their community. As they traveled in the shallop they encountered foul weather - rain and snow, and then there rudder was lost in the stormy, rough sea. Edward Winslow wrote that "the water froze on our clothes, and made them like coats of iron." They struggled with oars to guide the boat. When they raised the sail it broke into three pieces and they almost capsized. They were in a very dangerous situation. Even their eyelids were almost froze shut. Some men fainted from the cold and strain. Then they had to wade to shore which caused them to get wet in the icy waters from the waist down and this made them even cough more. Many became "sick unto death." Bradford said that this was where many of the men took "the original of their death here." They finally got a fire going in spite of the downpour, the wind and the wet tinder.
After exploring the area for days they finally decided on Plymouth
because there were cleared cornfields "that had been abandoned for
years" and ready for tillage, and the absence of Indians. Bradford writes,
"On Monday they sounded the harbor and found it fit for shipping, and marched
into the land and found divers cornfields and little running brooks, a
place (as they supposed) fit for situation. At least it was the best they
could find, and the season and their present necessity made them glad to
accept of it. So they returned to their ship again with this news to the
rest of their people, which did much comfort their hearts."
When the search party returned, Bradford was given the sad news that his wife Dorothy had died while he was discovering Plymouth. Tragically his wife had died in a fall overboard and drowned before even setting foot in America. Many historians believe she committed suicide. Bradford mentions it only briefly and never writes of his wife again. If she did commit suicide it would have been a great disgrace. They did not believe in suicide. It was a great sin. True religious people understand that suicide is very wrong.
On the Sunday before they entered Plymouth they rested to honor the Sabbath and prayed and dried out their guns. They were men of God, and it is God's will that godly men use guns when necessary. There is truth in the famous saying: "Put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry."
One night while the Mayflower was tossing and rolling and straining at her anchors in the middle of a fierce storm, Mary Allerton, wife of Isaac the tailor, delivered a son "but dead born."