The Pilgrims, who celebrated America’s first Thanksgiving holiday almost 400 years ago, held fast to a great hope in God and a desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To show this idea is actual fact not just my hopeful opinion, I will share writings of their well-respected Pilgrim leaders, Governor William Bradford and Pastor John Robinson. I am thankful for Governor Bradford’s detailed written record and will include many quotes to enhance this three-part blog.
After years of searching for a home where the Pilgrims could live in peace and worship freely, Bradford wrote of their strong desire to travel to the New World:
“…a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”
They faced the reality and risks of such an endeavor and chose to trust Almighty God even if it might cost their lives:
“…all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be… overcome with answerable courages. It was granted that the dangers were great, but not desperate, and the difficulties were many, but not invincible… and all of them, through the help of God, fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome…
[But] their condition was not ordinary. Their ends were good and honorable, their calling lawful and urgent, and therefore they might expect the blessing of God in their proceeding; yea, though they should lose their lives in this action, yet they might have comfort in the same, and their endeavors would be honorable.”
They anticipated difficulties but also had enough hope to expect help from the all-powerful God they trusted:
“Yea, and as the enterprise is weighty and difficult, so the honor is more worthy, to plant a rude wilderness, to enlarge the honor and fame of our dread sovereign, but chiefly to display the efficacy and power of the Gospel, both in zealous preaching, professing, and wise walking under it, before the faces of these poor blind infidels.”
They were concerned with more than themselves and prayed for the natives in the New World:
“And first, seeing we daily pray for the conversion of the heathens… it seemeth unto me that we ought also to endeavor and use the means to convert them; and the means cannot be used unless we go to them, or they come to us. To us they cannot come, our land is full; to them we may go… that they may be persuaded at length to embrace the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus, and rest in peace with him forever.”
Their pastor, John Robinson, did not accompany the largest group of Pilgrims who left Holland to board ships in England for their journey to the New World. Instead he stayed behind to care for those physically unable to travel. Pastor Robinson genuinely cared for his flock and sent a letter with those leaving. His letter was filled with reminders of hope and help that would be read many times during challenging days ahead.
These words by Pastor Robinson show the kind of teaching they had been used to, still believed in, and would continue to rely on for needed strength:
“We are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known and generally for our unknown trespasses…[For] sin being taken away by earnest repentance ad the pardon thereof from the Lord… great shall be [a man’s] security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses.”
(To be continued… See A GREAT HOPE Part 2)