If you have studied the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, you most assuredly have seen the name of William Bradford. He was one of the leaders of the group that sailed the treacherous waters of the Atlantic on the Mayflower.
Bradford was a member of the separatist movement in England and part of the segment which decided to head to the New World. His wife, Dorothy joined him. Their young son remained behind due to safety reasons. Sadly, Dorothy would fall from the ship and drown just prior to the landing in Cape Cod in 1620. Bradford would be elected governor of Plymouth after the death of John Carver and was re-elected every year thereafter. He remarried in 1623 to a widow named Alice Southworth. They would have three children.
In 1630, he began writing Of Plymouth Plantation. It’s a bit of a tough read if you are not well-verse in original King James-ish English (not the cleaned-up, modernized English in the King James Bible you may read at home). Honestly, it’s both boring and fascinating at the same time. What really stands out the me, however, is Bradford’s vibrant faith in Almighty God. Consider the following:
I may not here omit how, notwithstand[ing] all their great pains and industry, and the great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, and take away the same, and to threaten further and more sore famine unto them. By a great drought which continued from the third week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat for the most part, insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore, and some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay, part whereof was never recovered. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked and therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving. . . .(See reference below).
Those of us living in the Southeast, USA can relate to the need of rain! Many of us are praying regularly for it. Thankfully, like the Puritans, we believe that while God is completely sovereign, He does indeed both hear and answer prayer!
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Those are the comforting words from Psalm 121. God bids us to pray. We pray. He answers.
“Behold, now, another providence of God. A ship comes into the harbor,” wrote Bradford. I trust that we, too, can say that we have seen and experienced “another providence of God” after “another providence of God” during the first eleven months of this year. God has not treated us as our many, many sins deserve.
And we give thanks.