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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Great and Honourable Actions are Accompanied with Great Difficulties

We've been reading children's books about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving this week. I'm so grateful to Abraham Lincoln for making an official holiday of Thanksgiving, for one suspects that without that we might no longer take time as a nation to be thankful. The first Thanksgiving is often belittled as just another harvest feast, but I hope we never stop using the holiday as a time to remind ourselves of the Pilgrims' venture which started it all.

Reading about the voyage on the Mayflower (102 people crammed into tiny, stuffy quarters), and the ensuing suffering of starvation, illness, and death, always reveals to me my own cowardice. Would I walk into the face of danger for the integrity of the Gospel and worship? Did they understand the hardships that would come to them? William Bradford tells us:
The place they had thoughts on was some of those vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are frutfull and fitt for habitation, being devoyd of all civill inhabitants, wher ther are only salvage and brutish men, which range up and downe, litle otherwise then ye wild beasts of the
same. This proposition being made publike and coming to ye scaning of all, it raised many variable opinions amongst men, and caused many fears and doubts amongst them selves.
What were they afraid of? They had very reasonable fears, Bradford tell us.
Some, from their reasons and hops conceived, laboured to stirr up and incourage the rest to undertake and prosecute ye same; others, againe, out of their fears, objected against it, and sought to diverte from it, aledging many things, and those neither unreasonable nor unprobable; as that it was a great designe, and subjecte to many unconceivable perills and dangers; as, besids the casulties of ye seas (which none can be freed from) the length of ye vioage was such, as ye weake bodys of women and other persons worne out with age and traville. (as many of them were) could never be able to endure. And yet if they should, the miseries of ye land which they should be exposed unto, would be to hard to be borne; and lickly, some or all of them togeither, to consume and utterly to ruinate them. For ther they should be liable to famine, and nakednes, and ye wante, in a maner, of all things. The chang of aire, diate, and drinking of water, would infecte their bodies with sore sickneses, and greevous diseases.
And if that isn't enough, there is always the prospect of hostile peoples, which anyone would naturally fear.
And also those which should escape or overcome these difficulties, should yett be in continuall danger of ye salvage people, who are cruell, barbarous, and most trecherous, being most furious in their rage, and merciles wher they overcome ; not being contente only to kill, and take away life, but delight to tormente men in ye most bloodie maner that may be; fleaing some alive with ye shells of fishes, cutting of ye members and joynts of others by peesmeale, and broiling on ye coles, eate ye collops of their flesh in their sight whilst they live; with other cruelties horrible to be related. And surely it could not be thought but ye very hearing of these things could noti but move ye very bowels of men to grate within them, and make ye weake to quake and tremble.
Then there is the matter of funding...
It was furder objected, that it would require greater sumes of money to
furnish such a voiage, and to fitt them with necessaries, then their consumed estats would amounte too; and yett they must as well looke to be seconded with supplies, as presently to be trasported. Also many presidents of ill success, and lamentable misseries befalne others in the like designes, were easie to be found, and not forgotten to be aledged; besids their owne experience, in their former troubles and hardships in their removall into Holand, and how hard a thing it was for them to live in that strange place, though it was a neighbour countrie, and a civill and rich comone wealth.
How to respond to such objections? With God's help all may be borne or overcome:
It was answered, that all great and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted ye dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though their were many of them likly, yet they were not cartaine ; it might be sundrie of ye things feared might never befale; others by providente care and ye use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented ; and all of them, through ye help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome.

True it was, that such atempts were not to be made and undertaken without good ground and reason; not rashly or lightly as many have done for curiositie or hope of gaine, etc. But their condition was not ordinarie; their ends were good and honourable ; their calling lawfull, and urgente; and therfore they might expecte ye blessing of God in their proceding. Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable. They lived hear [in Holland] but as men in exile, and in a poore condition; and as great miseries might possibly befale them in this place, for ye 12. years of truce were now out, and ther was nothing but beating of drumes, and preparing for warr, the events wherof are allway uncertaine. Ye Spaniard might prove as cruell as the salvages of America, and ye famine and pestelence as sore hear as ther, and their libertie less to looke out for remedie. After many other perticuler things answered and aledged on both sids, it was fully concluded by ye major parte to put this designe in execution, and to prosecute it by the best means they could.
(William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, Chap. IV, quoted from the 1856 publication of an exact transcription of the original manuscript, available on Google Books, paragraphing and bold text added.)

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