comfort, the higher delineation of the sacred writer, “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor, yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy."

They were all poor and sad and needy that first year, and many were dying ; yet did they work while the day lasted, with cheerful, indefatigable courage. “We agreed,” say the Pilgrims in their Journal, “ that every man should build his own house, thinking by that course men would make more haste than working in common. The common house, in which for the first year we made our rendezvous, being nearly finished (a month or so after the landing), wanted only covering, it being about twenty feet square. Some should make mortar, and some gather thatch, so that in four days half of it was thatched. Frost and foul weather hindered us much." Little room there was for ornament. Each man building his own house in this winter weather, would think himself but too happy in a dwelling of rough logs. And the timber had to be felled, and the stuff provided, in intervals between storms, and sometimes with musket in hand, for fear of sudden assaults from the savages. Would that one of those earliest houses, erected that first winter, had been preserved!

We have spoken of the mildness of this first winter. Wood says, in his New England's Prospect,* that it is observed by the Indians that every ten years there is little or no winter, an observation confirmed by the experience of the English; for the year of the Plymouth men's arrival was no winter in comparison ; and in the tenth year likewise after that, when the great company settled in Massachusetts Bay, it was a very mild season.

There was little frost and less snow, but clear serene weather, with but few Northwest winds, which was a great mercy to the settlers, so little protected from the severity of the weather. He adds that the climate is much less cold-catching than in England, and in proof of this he gives the decorum of men's noses at meeting. In the public assemblies he says it is strange to hear a man sneeze or cough as ordinarily they do in Old England.

* Wood's New England's Prospect, p. 5.

We find from the Journal that the Pilgrims not only had muskets and other weapons, but some of them went clad in suits of complete armor, as is manifest from the description of their encounters with the Indians. Sometimes they were surprised without their armor, which would be a complete defence against the arrows of their enemies. They had their armor at hand, on the morning of the great encounter with some twenty or thirty of the savages, Dec. 8th, 1620 ; but it being yet dark, and just after morning prayers, and they just preparing for breakfast, when they had just camped and gathered fire-wood, they had not yet girded it on; and indeed, not expecting any use for it that day, they were for carrying it down to the shallop, where it would be all ready for their embarkation. Two or three among them declared they would not carry theirs, till they were ready to go themselves. Meantime some had carried theirs down, and left it lying on the sands, while they themselves came up again for breakfast; when suddenly a terrific war-whoop sounded from the woods, and a whole volley of arrows came flying in amongst them. The men ran out, and by the good providence of God, say the Pilgrims, recovered their arms, but they could not then have had time to buckle on their armor. Yet not a single arrow hit any one of them, though the conflict lasted a good while. They had nothing but matchlocks to their muskets, so that it took some time to light their matches, and while doing this with the firebrands, they offered a plain mark for the Indians. In the dark of the morning, as they said, they could not themselves so well discern the Indians among the trees, as the Indians could see them by their fire-side. It was a most perilous interruption of their breakfast, and altogether a terrible encounter, though most providentially, with not the slightest injury on their part. They gathered

[ocr errors]

up eighteen of the arrows, brazen-headed, horn-headed, and otherwise, and sent them to their friends in England.

Their armor is described in some of the records of the Colonists. Of the settlers at Virginia, Captain John Smith says that they all had, besides each his “ peice," a

,a jack, coat of mail, and sword, or rapier. In a record concerning the Salem Colonists in 1629,* there is note of an agreement “ with Mr. Thomas Stevens, Armorer in Buttolph Lane, for twenty arms, namely, corset, breast, back, culet, gorget, tassels and head piece to each, varnished all black, with leathers and buckles, at seventeen shillings each armour, excepting four which are to be with close head pieces, and these four armours at twenty-four shillings a piece.” Forty bandileers of neat's leather in broad girdles with boxes for twelve cartridges were also contracted for. For a scouting party, or a tramp through the woods, this heavy armor must have been a great incumbrance, but it would render them fire-proof against all the weapons of the Indians. On one occasion they say, we marched through boughs and bushes, and under hills and valleys, which tore our very armor in pieces. They were then in pursuit of the Indians, whom they had followed long already without success, and who now took to another wood, and set their pursuers, with their armor and snaphances, at defiance. Indeed, what could a heavy armed warrior of the disappearing age of knighthood do in the chase with a half naked savage, as fleet and accustomed to the woods as a panther!

Thus much for their material armor. They were all experienced Christian soldiers, but with the wars and weapons of this world they had little to do. God had appointed for them one disciplined military hero, and but one, Captain Standish, to be the soul and leader in every enterprise, where martial discipline and skill were requisite. And so well fitted was he, by a vigorous judgment, and a daring, energetic, almost reckless courage, for the post he occupied, that after the Indians had gained, by one or two experiences, some little knowledge of his character, the very terror of

* Felt's Annals of Salem. Vol. i., p. 64.

, his name was a defence to the Colony. But they were Pilgrims, all the way through life, and the weapons of their warfare were spiritual, not carnal, and well, with the whole armor of God, did they wrestle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Their feet were shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, their loins were girt about with truth, and they had on the breast-plate of righteousness, and theirs was the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and they prayed always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, watching thereunto. Yea, they were overshadowed, according to that touching letter to the Church of England, in which the second Colony of Pilgrims from the Mother Country poured out the desires of their hearts for her welfare, with the spirit of supplications, in their poor cottages in the wilderness.

Twenty years after the May Flower anchored in Plymouth Harbor, only twenty years after the first New England Sabbath, there was a circle of sister churches, one after another, like unseen constellations, in the beautiful imagery used by Cotton Mather, silently stolen into the sky, where the order of Christ's House was to be seen in its primitive simplicity, perhaps more comely and holy than anywhere else in the world. And yet the order of those simple services seemed strange and rude to the European gazers, so long had the world been accustomed to the prodigality and pomp of circumstance and ceremony, native and home-born in the Papacy, or borrowed from that. What a forcible, heavenly, significant contrast of Spirit and Truth, against rites and traditions, in the free, rising, prophesying Churches of New England !



A minute and interesting account of the manner of public worship in the meeting-houses there, at the close of twenty years from the first planting of the Vine in the Wilderness, was published at London in the year 1641, in a curious volume, from which we take the following extracts:

“ The public worship is in as fair a meeting house as they can provide, wherein, in most cases, they have been at great charges. Every Sabbath or Lord's Day they come together at Boston by ringing of a bell about nine of the clock or before. The pastor begins with solemn prayer, continuing about a quarter of an hour. The teacher then readeth and expoundeth a chapter ; then a psalm is sung, whichever one of the ruling elders dictates.

, After that the pastor preacheth a sermon, and sometimes ex tempore exhorts. Then the teacher concludes with prayer and a blessing.

“ Once a month is a Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, whereof notice is usually given a fortnight before, and then all others departing except the Church, which is a great deal less in number than those that go away, they receive the Sacrament, the ministers and ruling elders sitting at the table, the rest in their seats or upon forms. Any one, though not of the church, may in Boston come in and see the Sacrament administered, if he will. But none of any church in the country may receive the Sacrament there, without leave of the congregation, for which purpose he comes to one of the ruling elders, who propounds his name to the congregation, before they go to the Sacrament.

About two in the afternoon they repair to the meetinghouse again ; and then the pastor begins, as before noon, and a psalm being sung, the teacher makes a sermon. He was wont, when I came first, to read and expound a chapter also before his sermon in the afternoon. After and before his sermon he prayeth.

“ After that ensues baptism, if there be any, which is

« VorigeDoorgaan »