« PreviousContinue »
from every means of emolument, and even subsistence in their native land; and to fill up the measure of their sufferings, were denied the melancholy privilege of seeking an asyluin, in any other part of the world. All the ports from which they could escape, were strictly watched, and more than once, when on the point of embarking for the continent, they were arrested and imprisoned, or cruelly driven back, to the places from whence they came, but where they had neither friends, nor homes to receive them.
A considerable number of these hunted and sorrowing fugitives, however, found their way to Holland, early in the seventeenth century, and established an independent church at Amsterdam. From thence they soon removed to Leyden, where they enjoyed great quietness and prosperity, for about ten, or twelve years; and where they might have ended their days 'in peace. But in 1617, these pious exiles, began to turn their thoughts to the new world, and we must now.follow them in their pilgrimage across the ocean. The reasons which influenced them to so perilous an undertaking, are thus briefly stated by Neal, their indefatigable historian.
While they sojourned in Leyden, perceiving that their congregation was on the the decline, by their aged members dying off, and their children marrying into Dutch families, they consulted how to preserve their church and religion, and at length, after several solemn addresses to heaven, the younger part of the congregation, resolved to remove into some part of America, under the protection of the king of England, where they might enjoy the liberty of their consciences and be capable of encouraging their friends and countrymen to follow them.'
But they were not entirely agreed among themselves,
as to the place of settlement. Some were for emigrating to Guiana. The majority, however, were in favor of going to Virginia, where a plantation was already begun ; and they applied to the company for a patent of some part of their territory. This application was favorably received; but the king would not grant them liberty of conscience, under the great seal, and it was two years later, when they obtained their patent, and resolved to venture, without the guarantee which they had sought from the crown. In making known their resolution, to commit themselves to the care of Providence on the ocean, and in the wilderness, they declared, “That they were well weaned from the delicate milk of their mother country, and enured to the difficulties of a strange land: that they were knit together in a strict and sacred bond, by which they held themselves bound to take care of the good of each other and of the whole ; and that it was not with them, as with other men, whom small things could discourage, or small discontents cause to wish themselves at home again.'
The resolution for a removal being thus solemnly taken, preparations were made for the voyage, and early in July, 1620, those who had offered themselves for this hazardous enterprise, bid a last adieu to their beloved pastor, the Rev. John Robinson, and their aged christian friends, not knowing what might befall them whither they went.Most affecting was the parting scene, on the morning of their embarkation. Mutual embraces and broken farewells, of parents and children and christian friends, between whom, a thousand leagues of ocean would soon roll: and the whole scene closed, by the venerable Robinson kneeling down upon the sea shore, and with uplifted eyes and hands, fervently commending them to the blessing and protection of heaven.
From Holland, this little devoted company of christian pilgrims crossed over to England, and soon took their departure for America ; but mysterious was the providence of God, in detaining them so long on the coast, that it was not till the eighth or ninth of November, that they first discovered land in the new world, which proved to be the white and barren shore of Cape Cod. As they intended to settle near Hudson's river, they bore away to the south; but baffled by contrary winds, and finding themselves among dangerous shoals, they were glad the next day, to take shelter in the harbor of the cape. This disappointment is generally ascribed to the treachery of the captain, who brought them over. He is supposed to have been bribed by the Dutch, who had previously taken possession of Hudson's river, not to land them there; and there seems to be ground for strong suspicion, that their late arrival on the coast, was owing, in some measure, to the same perfidious arrangement.
The May-Flower lay in the harbor of the Cape more than a month, before even a tolerable place for beginning a settlement could be found. At length, after a great many unsuccesful excursions, and while the people were looking forward with dismay, to the untried rigors of a New-England winter, it was resolved to send out one exploring party more. This party boldly coasted along to the north, much farther than they had before ventured, in an open boat, and cased with ice, till overtaken by a violent storm, they found themselves providentially sheltered in a good harbor, with a convenient site for a town near at hand, and Indian cornfields lying around it. As soon as this intelligence could be communicated to the ship, the resolution was taken of proceeding immediately to the place. As the pilgrims found themselves without the limits of their
patent, and where no regular authority existed, they had deemed it expedient on their first arrival, to enter into a solemn covenant, or compact, for the government of their little commonwealth, which was formally signed on the 11th of November, by John Carver, appointed the first governor, and forty-one others, supposed to be the whole number of males in the company, over twenty-one years of age. On the 22d of December, 1620, just 200 years ago, the pilgrims, one hundred and one in number, including women and children, landed at Plymouth.
And here, my brethren, let us pause for a moment, and think of the situation and prospects of this little band of betrayed christian exiles. In another hemisphere were all the comforts, honors, ard emoluments, which the sacrifice of a good conscience might have purchased ; but which they voluntarily relinquished, for peace within.Behind them were the chill surges of the Atlantic, darkly rolling to the solitary shore. Above was a frowning December's sky: Before them, was a wilderness, such as they had never seen, inhabited by wild beasts and savage men. The sun himself was gone from these rigorous latitudes, to cheer other and more favored climes. Nor friends nor kindred were near, to welcome their arrival; and not a single shelter prepared, to screen the women and children from the stern monarch of desolation, clad inice, shrouded in storms, and fiercely coming down from the seat of his empire in the north.
Such, my brethren, was the almost hopeless condition of the pilgrims, whose landing on Plymouth rock we this day commemorate, and no tongue can tell the hardships which they underwent, during the first winter. The fatigues and privations of their long voyage, the severity of the weather, from which they were but miserably shel
tered in their green unfinished huts, and the want of almost every necessary,-brought on a mortal sickness, which in two, or three months, swept off about half their number, including the governor, and reduced the survivors so low, that not more than six, or seven, were in a condition to take care of the sick. They however persevered, in the midst of weakness, danger, and death. About a year after their arrival, thirty-five of their friends joined them from Holland, and assisted them in laying the foundations of a flourishing colony.
O could we place our souls in their souls' stead, under the circumstances which I have related, how would our hearts sink within us. When winter roars in the forests and drifts around our dwellings, let us think of the pilgrims and be thankful. Let us think of them, when we sit by our warm fires, enjoying the society of our neighbors and friends. Let us think of them, when our 'garners are full, affording all manner of store ;' and when we are sick, let us think of the pilgrims, sick and dying without physicians or nurses; and let the fond mother think of them, when in a piercing night, she goes from room to room, to see if her children are warm. this day, in particular, dwell much upon their privations and sufferings; and when we contrast our happy lot with every thing that was distressing in theirs, let our hearts rise in the warmest gratitude to Him, who maketh us to differ.'
A community of goods seems, at first, to have been a favorite object with the settlers of Plymouth; and they made a fair experiment, by pursuing the plan for about three years. The result of this experiment, was a full conviction, that however it might succeed among perfectly holy beings, the scheme is not practicable, to any con