Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone Voyage of the Mayflower
Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2009 11:37 am
The Messenger, November 5, 2009
By ARTHUR W. HUNT III
Special to The Messenger
For 65 days the passengers of the Mayflower remained sandwiched between the ship’s upper and lower decks in a space 75 feet long and five feet high. Below them were the provisions they had brought along for the new settlement: beer, wine, hardtack, salted beef and pork, dried peas, fishing supplies, muskets, armor, clothing, tools and trade goods for the Indians.
Above them were the sailors who, at every opportunity, made it a point to mock and curse the more pious passengers. One sailor said he hoped to cast half of them overboard at journey’s end.
But the English separatists were use to this kind of treatment. They had left England for Holland, where they could exercise religious liberty. The Pilgrims were Calvinists who had resolved to draw themselves away from the Church of England to worship with freedom of conscience.
Joining the Pilgrims were a group of unsympathetic non-separatists from London. Counting the crew, separatists and non-separatists, there was a total of 102 of passengers, plus two dogs, on a ship the size of a large modern-day house.
Those on the Mayflower knew they faced insurmountable odds. The settlers at Jamestown (Va.) were dying like flies — 70 of 180 the first year, and 440 of 500 the next winter. Between 1619 and 1622, 3,000 of 3,600 in Virginia’s first settlement would be buried beneath the sod. If the trip across the Atlantic didn’t kill you, then disease would.
And then there were the Indians. The Pilgrims had read accounts of how the natives delighted in tormenting men: “flaying some alive with the shells of fishes, cutting off the members and joints of others by piecemeal and broiling on the coals.” Despite these kinds of terrors, the Pilgrims still wanted to evangelize them.
On board was William Bradford, who eventually became governor of the colony. Struck by illness as a boy, Bradford spent hours reading his Geneva Bible. He also read John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs,” which impressed upon his mind the virtue, and sometimes the necessity, of having to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The Pilgrims belonged to a community of families that wanted to recreate the English village life they so dearly missed. Although they disagreed with the Church of England, they still considered themselves Englishmen.
Those on ship realized the only way for the settlement to be a success, financially or otherwise, was for all parties to work together for the common good. Before they reached land they entered into a covenant to ensure order and preserve the colony as a “civil body politic.” The Mayflower Compact remains, to this day, a seminal document of our Republic, along with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
The Mayflower’s original destination was the mouth of the Hudson River, but they missed it by 220 miles and ended up at Cape Cod, a peninsula of land resembling a rolled-up arm jutting out of present-day Massachusetts. On Nov. 9, 1620, after two months at sea, the passengers of the Mayflower saw land.
Four months later, half of them would be dead.
Editor’s note: Arthur W. Hunt III is assistant professor of communications at the University of Tennessee at Martin and a member of Grace Community Church in Union City. Accounts are based upon Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower.
Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone