Power of prayer
There was a drought of 7 weeks starting in June of 1623. They lived barely day to day from fishing. The burning sun of July scorched the earth. No rain fell for weeks. The cornstalks and bean vines began to wilt and turn brown and dry.
Governor Bradford and Elder Brewster called for "a solemn day
of humiliation." The bedraggled Pilgrims marched solemnly up
the hill to the fort dressed in their best clothes. At the rear of
the procession was the trinity of Bradford in a long robe, with
Brewster on his right and Standish on his left symbolizing
unity of the civil, religious and military and obviously the
Trinity itself. All day long they fasted and prayed.
Edward Winslow wrote, "In the morning, when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear, and the drought as like to continue as ever it was." They prayed for eight hours straight on that sizzling, cloudless day and then, very late in the afternoon, the sky became overcast, and Winslow writes: "the clouds gathered together on all sides." The next morning, the Pilgrims woke to the sound of a soft, gentle rain falling on their roofs. It rained for 14 days, and the crops turned green again. We read: "Before our departure the weather was over-cast, the clouds gathered together on all sides, and on the next morning distilled such soft, sweet, and moderate showers of rain, continuing some fourteen days, and mixed with such seasonable weather, as it was hard to say whether our Corn, or drooping affections were most quickened or revived. Such was the bounty and goodness of our God."
John Adams in 1765 wrote: "I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder."
Bradford was buried on the hill overlooking Plymouth. Over 300 years later a marble shaft stands on the hill engraved with this reminder, "Do not basely relinquish what the Fathers with difficulty attained." So many saints and righteous people have given their blood, sweat and tears to build this nation. Let's not forget. Let's go beyond them and make America and the world an even better place for the future generations.
The Plymouth Colony lasted 70 years. God had hoped it would have become the principal power, but the Puritans absorbed it. Bradford had hoped that the colony would have grown in unity and strength, but it didn't. If it had, then America would have had a much more tolerant view of religious people.
The Pilgrims laid the foundation for the basic ideals of America. If America wants to continue to survive instead of falling apart as Jamestown, we must learn the lesson that God is trying to teach us. We must become a religious people.
Each year thousands make their pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts in which there is a replica of the Mayflower and a reconstruction of the colony as it was in 1627.
We use the words "Pilgrim Fathers" and many think that those who landed at Plymouth were old men and women. Most of the adults were in their 20's. A third were children. Those who survived after the first winter were even younger about half of all those who survived the first year were under 16. The Pilgrims were nearly all young people. They were also poor and uneducated. Many times in God's providence, God has used young, uneducated people to be his pioneers. The Unification Church follows that pattern. God's champions are often the last in society, and are persecuted by those who are the first. People in position should always be alert to this fact and be very open to hearing ideas from those who do not look powerful and impressive. Teachers and parents have a responsibility to teach this historical fact. Otherwise as Santayana said, we are doomed to repeat the past. How many teachers of history and how many parents teach not only tolerance but that we should always be on the lookout for new revelations from the least expected place?
Although the Pilgrims never complained, they lived with many who did. Many settlers expected to find ease and happiness and found only hard work and discomfort. Edward Winslow even wrote to England warning people that Plymouth was not Elysium and that too many were coming with too high expectations and then "plunge themselves into a deeper sea of misery."
America was seen by the Pilgrims as Canaan and like Moses they had to wander and suffer and fight to enter it. There was a popular book at that time by Thomas Morton called New English Canaan, or New Canaan.
Pilgrims against pacifism
Another time the pacifists objected to Bradford was when they heard that a group of Indians were terrorizing a group of settlers not far from Plymouth. Bradford decided to help them. He was no isolationist. He sent Myles Standish to kill the Indians. When Myles Standish arrived, the leader of the Indians, a big six foot two warrior stood in front of Myles, who stood five feet two. The Indian put his knife up to the captain's face and threatened to kill "the little shrimp." Standish kept his cool and maneuvered the warrior and the others into a house nearby. The Pilgrims quickly closed and barred the door. Standish grabbed the Indians knife and without hesitation stabbed him in the heart. They fought and then the Indians fled.
The story of what Myles Standish did was carried all over New England with great effect. Those Indians who were planning to attack the Pilgrims gave up and some tribes sent canoes full of gifts to Bradford. There was no more trouble from Indians after this decisive move for many years.
Pastor John Robinson criticized them for killing instead of converting the Indians. But Robinson was in the minority. Most understood that they were barely holding on to life in a remote frontier. It is a lesson to us that there were many years of peace after this one firm action because in it the Indians saw the decisiveness and resolve of the Pilgrims.
Robinson wrote from Leyden that it was not right to terrorize the poor Indians. Robinson said Standish was "wanting" of "tenderness." The lesson here is that love can be expressed sometimes by not being "tender." Sometimes it is necessary to be a fighter. We cannot be tender to the Hitlers and the Stalins. But we are also to help (not take revenge) the defeated enemy as we did in the Marshall Plan after WWII.
The Pilgrims were being god-centered in hiring Myles Standish on as a military advisor. They knew he was a soldier of fortune, and they knew they were right to have him and indeed they were. We should honor and support our military.
They never relaxed their guard even after years of peace. They were deadly serious about keeping a guard day and night. They believed in keeping strong militarily and never spacing out or lax in their defense. This lesson was lost in WWII in Pearl Harbor. America was right in keeping a strong military position for the long years of the cold war against Communism. The Hawks were Abel and the Doves were Cain in the debate over Korea, Vietnam, Gulf war, Contras and Bosnia.
Bradford said it was hard to build the fort when they first arrived: "It was a great work for them in their weakness and time of want." This is an understatement. It was excruciating. And even though they desperately needed to do basic things such as provide food, clothing, and shelter they knew that their defense was priority. We can learn many lessons from the Pilgrims. America must also continue to be strong. Do you think Bradford and the others would take the current liberal view towards the nuclear freeze movement and not fighting to win in Korea and Vietnam? They would support the Contras. They knew Satan. They knew they were a target for Satan. They did not fall asleep spiritually. They were not naïve to evil. They knew there was good and evil and they were good. They knew Satan was a strong enemy, and they were determined to be stronger and never be crushed.
In August 1623 two ships came bringing 60 passengers. One was John Oldham who was not a Pilgrim. He and others began to write back complaining with false statements of Plymouth. One of their complaints was true there was no ordained minister. Bradford and the others wanted one too. In 1624 one came, or so they thought. Rev. John Lyford arrived. He said he was a Pilgrim, but he was really lying. He had been fired from an Episcopal parish in Ireland for sexual harassment. The Pilgrims were delighted to have a "reverend" at last. They were generous and gave him a house and double-rations for his family of five. He immediately turned on them and with Oldham started a faction to overthrow the government.