Archived Story

American Heritage: The pilgrim voyage begins

Published 9:31pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (Declaration Of Independence, July 4, 1776, Para. 1)

As we closed our last chapter of the Pilgrim movement, we saw that they had moved to Leyden, Holland.  Having separated from the Anglican Church of England, their lives were now in jeopardy.

They were in Holland under very poor conditions for 12 years.  Finally, they decided it was time to make a move.

News had spread of the founding of the colony of Jamestown in the New World.  The Jamestown Colony was a “faith-based” colony.  In fact, in 1619, Virgina’s House of Burgess had established their faith-based self-government.  The first thing they did was to open the meeting with a word of prayer.  They then went on to approve a legislative measure to mandate that people would attend church on the Lord’s Day.  Two years after that, the Virginia constitution dedicated the colony to “the Advancement of the Honour and Service of God, and the Enlargement of His Kingdom” (By The Hand Of Providence, Rod Gragg).

The road for the Jamestown colony was not paved with gold.  It had a lot potholes and was filled with the dead bodies of many of the early colonists who settled there.

So the Pilgrims made their decision to head for the New World and establish their own colony of freedom.  They believed that the New World was the place to which their God was leading them and intended that they establish their new home. They wanted to live where every local church could be independent and self-governing.  They wanted to be out from under the threat of being executed for not subjecting themselves to a religion with whom they could not worship or agree in their beliefs.  They knew the horror stories of how over 50 percent of the Jamestown residents had died over the 12 years that they had inhabited their new home in the New World.  They knew about the starvation, the severe hazards of the winters and the savagery of the Indians that they shared the land with. But they were determined to make the journey and succeed by the power of the God that they believed was leading them to go.

William Bradford wrote of the Pilgrim’s attitude concerning the trials that would be ahead of them.  He stated “Their ends were good and honorable, their calling lawful and urgent, and therefore they might expect the blessing of God in their proceeding; yea though they should lose their lives in this action, yet they might have comfort in the same, and their endeavors would be honorable.” (Bradford, Plimoth, Wright and Potter edition, 34-35).

The Pilgrims elected their pastor.  His name was John Robinson.  He, an elder by the name of William Brewster and a few other of the leaders of the group, after much prayer, had no doubt that God was leading them to go to what they considered was the “New Jerusalem.”

Pastor Robinson and elder Brewster drew up a business plan and sent it to Edwin Sandys who was the treasurer of the Virginia Company who was the main company who would back such voyages.  They new that if they were to make this journey, they would need financial backing.  This was the company that would probably do what they needed done.  The reasons that they listed for their confidence in the success of establishing this colony were as follows:

a.  They believed that the Lord was with them.

b.  They were well weaned from the mother country.

c.  The people that would be going were industrious and frugal which would be necessary to be successful.

d.  They were unified as a body in a very strict and sacred bond and covenant of their Lord.

e.  They were a group of people who were so set in mind and faith in their Lord that they would not be easily discouraged thus leading them to become homesick and return to their homeland in failure.

Their request to the Virginia Company fell through.  The company was on the verge of bankruptcy.  The owners of the company were constantly fighting amongst themselves.

They would soon be visited by a man by the name of Thomas Weston.  He was a merchant and an “Independent Adventurer.”  He told them that his feelings concerning God’s hand in this venture were the same as theirs.

They entered into an agreement with Weston.  The agreement with him stated that each of their adults from 16 years old and up, would have shares in the “plantation” venture.  Each share was worth 10 pounds sterling or around $1000 in what is present American money.  If the person would take care of his own provisions, he would have an additional share.  They also had the opportunity to purchase additional shares if they had the money to do so. They would be in joint partnership for a period of seven years. When the seven years were completed, the land and the profits of the plantation venture would be divided up among the share holders according to their shares.

So, after the purchase of an old freighter named the Speedwell and a larger ship named the Mayflower they were ready to set out on their venture.  However, one problem stood before them.  Only a small percentage of their flock was able to go along because of the space on their vessels.

Of those who would be left behind, was their pastor, John Robinson, so that he could take care of the members of his church who would be left behind.  Elder William Brewster would go with the group to the “Promised Land” as their teacher and acting pastor.

Pastor Robinson declared a day of fasting and prayer.  This was in spiritual preparation for the voyage.  At the end of the day, they had a farewell dinner, which was followed by singing their favorite psalms from their Ainsworth’s Psalm Book.

The very next morning, they headed for Delftshaven where the Speedwell was waiting for them.  At dawn on July 22, 1620, they said their good-byes.  Pastor Robinson knelt on the dock and prayed for God’s blessing on those who were about to make this historic voyage.

Tears were shed, and the travelers boarded the ship for their journey. The crew cast off and they were now on their way to the “New World.”

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