Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

its fruits in the immediate conversion of the natives, till the coming and apostolic labors of Elliot. And why may we not regard that remarkable man as an instrument raised up and made successful in answer to the Pilgrims' prayers ? The same God who provided them rain when they pleaded for it, opened for them, when his set time had come, doors wide and effectual for the power of his word, even among the Indians.

. None ever yet, with sincere purpose of heart, and a lowly spirit, appointed a Fast-Day, but God changed it into a Thanksgiving. In addition to the reviving rains, the Colony was comforted by the return of Captain Standish, whom the Governor had sent away to buy provisions; and they also learned that the ship was safe, which they had supposed wrecked with their supplies, and would soon come to them.

“So that,” says Mr. Winslow, “ having these many signs of God's favor and acceptation, we thought it would be great ingratitude if secretly we should smother up the same, or content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that, which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end ; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise with all thankfulness, to our good God, which deals so graciously with us; whose name for these and all other his mercies towards his Church and chosen ones, by them be blessed and praised now and evermore, Amen."

In the Charlestown Records, as published by Dr. Young in his Chronicles of Massachusetts, we find a similar change of a Fast-Day into Thanksgiving in the Massachusetts Colony. It was in 1631. The winter had come on, and provisions were so scanty, that the colonists had to live upon clams, muscles, ground-nuts, and acorns, and these got with much difficulty in the winter season. The last batch of bread was in the Governor's oven. "But God, who delights to appear in greatest straits, did work marvellously

[ocr errors]

at this time; for before the very day appointed to seek the Lord by fasting and prayer, in comes Mr. Pearce (in a ship from Ireland) laden with provisions. Upon which occasion the Fast-Day was changed, and ordered to be kept as a Day of Thanksgiving; when provisions were by the Governor distributed unto the people proportionable to their necessities.'

The day of Thanksgiving appointed by the Plymouth Pilgrims was kept out of the fulness of their hearts, for it was a marvellous change which God had wrought for them in answer to prayer. A blessing so public and so great they would not smother up in mere private acknowledgments, but the whole Colony were gathered into their meeting-house in the timber-fort upon the hill, where not only their Elder, Mr. Brewster, discoursed to them concerning God's goodness, but the Governor himself, according to his frequent wont, would exhort them that with such a faithful, covenant-keeping God they should never yield to unbelief

or fear.

99

Soon after this day of thanksgiving their hearts were further gladdened with the sight of two ships with supplies entering their harbor, one of them perhaps the very next morning, bringing an addition of men to the colony ; some of them good men and true, “but others so bad," said Governor Bradford, “ that we were forced to be at the charge to send them home next year.”

When these passengers saw their poor and low condition ashore, they were much dismayed and full of sadness. They had ever been accustomed to good fare and many blessings, and were not prepared by God's discipline to join in days of thanksgiving amidst seasons of adversity. “Only our old friends," continues Governor Bradford, “rejoiced to see us, and that it was no worse, and now hoped we should enjoy better days together. The best dish we

* Young's Chronicles of Massachusetts, 385

could present them with was a lobster or piece of fish without bread or anything else but a cup of fair spring water: and the long continuance of this diet, with our labors abroad, has somewhat abated the freshness of our complexion; but God gives us health."

“Now our harvest came," added Governor Bradford, under date of September ; “instead of famine we had plenty, and the face of things was changed to the joy of our hearts; nor has there been any general want of food among us since to this day;" from September, 1623, to the close of the year 1646, up to which Governor Bradford carried his history.

Such is the account of the first days of Fasting and Thanksgiving in New England. The record of God's interpositions amidst actual and threatening famine, with the thanksgiving afterwards, formed an episode by itself, in the early annals of our Pilgrim Fathers, beautifully illustrative of God's goodness and of their faith.

CHAPTER XVII.

THE FIRST NEW ENGLAND COUNCIL, CHURCH ORGANIZATION,

AND ORDINATION.

The contrast between the first and second colonizings of New England, between the settlement at Plymouth and that at Salem and Boston, deserves to be noted. It seemed as if God, by the baptism of suffering through which he led the first band of Pilgrims, had inspired the spirit of death to self in those who came after them. But the difference was wide in their external appointments and prospects. The first Pilgrim voyage in 1620 was in the little vessel of the May Flower, with one hundred souls in all, of whom half died within five months. The second emigration in 1630 was in four ships out of a fleet of eleven, the other seven being destined to the same expedition, but not yet quite ready for sea; the ships dignified as Admiral, ViceAdmiral, Rear-Admiral, and Captain; the first being the Arabella, of 350 tons, manned with fifty-two seamen and twenty-eight guns. Fifteen hundred persons embarked that season for Massachusetts. The colony at Boston endured a devastating sickness, and then about a hundred of the colonists fled back to England, relinquishing the enterprise at the first thickening difficulties. Among them were some in whom the colony confided as its main and sure supporters.

There had been one settler before them at Boston, Mr. William Blackstone, a Puritan Minister of the English Church, of such large and determined principles of liberty and independence that he found the colony itself afterwards too intolerant for him, and would not be connected with the church. “I came from England,” said he,“ because I did not like the Lord-Bishops: and. I cannot join with you, because I would not be under the Lord-Brethren.” This company

of colonists were full of affectionate and forgiving remembrance of their Mother Church, and they besought an interest still in her prayers in Old England ; promising a return of the same, “ when we shall be in our poor cottages in the wilderness, overshadowed with the spirit of supplication through the manifold necessities and tribulations, which may not altogether unexpectedly, nor we hope unprofitably befall us."

How beautiful is this recognition of the great principle of God's dispensations with his people, to make them, like the Captain of their Salvation, perfect through suffering! They were to be overshadowed with the great spirit of supplication through the sufferings awaiting them in the wilderness! The tribute paid by the historian Grahame to the noble character of this consecrated band is so just both for them and the Plymouth Pilgrims, and so eloquent in itself, that we shall quote a part of it.

“ Soon after the power of the adventurers to establish a colony was rendered complete by the royal charter, 1st May, 1629, they equipped and despatched five ships for New England, containing three hundred and fifty emigrants, chiefly zealous Puritans, accompanied by some eminent Nonconformist ministers. The regrets which an eternal farewell to their native land was calculated to inspire, the distressing inconvenience of a long voyage to persons unaccustomed to the sea, and the formidable scene of toil and danger that confronted them in the barbarous land where so many preceding emigrants had found an untimely

« VorigeDoorgaan »