Monday, May 5, 2014

Analysis: Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford

Now that I have reviewed Of Plymouth Plantation, it is time to answer the analysis questions from Fanda's History Challenge:

Embarkment of the Pilgrims by Robert Walter
(William Bradford is at center, kneeling, holding the Bible)

Who is this story about?

This story is about the English Pilgrims and their pursuit of religious freedom.  The Pilgrims were also called Puritans because they wanted to worship purely; some only wanted to reform the Church of England, but the Separatists preferred to pull away from the Church completely and begin anew somewhere else. This story is about the Separatists' religious struggles in England and Holland, and finally of their sacrifices in America, where they eventually settled.

What challenges did this hero face?

The short answer is: too many to list here; but a longer answer would include Godless men, nature, hunger, illness, hostility, selfishness, greed, immorality, strife, laziness, and death.

Who or what causes this challenge?

Some language barriers or bad experiences with the Europeans trapping (for furs) in America caused the challenges between Native Americans and the Pilgrims.  The native people were concerned about losing their land and resources.

Challenges caused by nature, like weather, climate, and illness, were completely out of their hands. Lack of food was caused by the inability to keep food supplies on long trips, and after arriving in America, being unable to find food; in desperation, the Pilgrims took some Indian corn that was buried, with every intention to repay later, which they did.

And crimes, conflict, and immorality were caused by sinfulness.  Even men who were thought to be of the church turned out to be liars and caused strife in America and England.  Plus, Bradford claimed that servants, who worked in the homes of the Pilgrims, brought their sinful behaviors to America, corrupting others.

The Mayflower Compact
What does it mean to be human?

It is important to recognize the courage, bravery, perseverance, and faithfulness of these religious people who sacrificed their homes and possessions for a new life in a relatively unknown land (in a new continent) for the sake of focusing on God rightly and purely. As I read through their many trials facing them, I felt as if God was surely against them; but when I arrived at the very end of the history, Bradford addresses this very issue.

Why would anyone go through this?  Bradford wants others to know that God was with them.  He wants others to know of God's goodness and mercy, and that they, too, can rely on God in times of personal conflict.
What was it then that upheld them?  It was God's visitation that preserved their spirits, Job x 12.
God,...would have all men to behold and observe such mercies and works of His providence as these are towards His people, that they in like cases might be encouraged to depend upon God in their trials, and also to bless His name when they see His goodness towards others.  Man lives not by bread only, Deut. viii 3.
This is what religious freedom meant to these people.  This is what they were willing to sacrifice and experience in order to provide future generations liberty in acknowledging and worshipping God, who gave them life, in the way that they knew God wanted them to live and worship, without government telling them otherwise.  And this is what they wanted the world to know: God preserved them, and God was with them, and that man cannot live on bread alone; man needs God!  For them, this is what it meant to be human.

The Pilgrims Arrive at Plymouth
Post Script:
In my opinion, obviously these beautiful paintings are inaccurate.  The state of the people on this journey was gloomy and mournful.  The voyage was treacherous, conditions were poor, the supplies were short, the people were starving, sick,  and miserable, and women did not come on land for at least three months.

In fact, though Bradford does not speak of this in this account, his wife died by falling into the sea and drowning while the Mayflower was docked at Plymouth.  Some speculate it was suicide, which is not difficult to believe given the hardships it took to get to America and how uncertain it all was afterward.  My only intent is to demonstrate the spirit that is captured in these artworks.

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