In 1628, there was a decision to settle in Plymouth. They had gone to Holland for a while but they decided that was not suitable, so they went to the new world to set up a new place. They accepted the idea that the American continents were a "New World" and that they could set up a new type of community there.Columbus kept "discovering" things over here that he had previously heard about in Europe but he thought that there were analogues to this over in the new world, things that are likely. There is always a hunt. And in fact things that are totally unlike anything in Europe, it was practically impossible to figure out what these things were. They could try to describe it. There are not cameras, but people could draw it, and they could bring stuff back. Trying to figure out what to call something this time so that it could be recognized by people on the next trip, was to describing things so it could be understood by the people back home.But for the Puritans, there was also a religious element to the Old World/ New World idea. This is like Old Testament / New Testament. Christianity has been from the beginning a typological religion. Typology is the idea that there are things about the way items in the Old Testament match up with things in the New Testament. Things often match up to Jesus. For instance, Adam in the Old Testament, Jesus is the new Adam who undoes the damage done by the first one. Jesus, in Matthew 5-7 also delivered the commandments on how to live on the mountain. Moses also delivered commandments from a mountain. So Jesus in the new Moses giving the Messianic Law. The book of Hebrews is full of this stuff; it is an exercise in typology. The Old Tabernacle/ New Tabernacle, the old this, the new that. The Puritans were steeped in this, Not only did you have Old Testament and New Testament, but you had now. You would find things, your patterns for living, and for interpreting events in the Bible. History is not so much a forward motion of events, one event following another as it is the endless repetition of patterns. You have a pattern in the Old Testament, it is repeated in the New Testament, and it is repeated for the believer today. We come across this quite a bit in Bradford.Also in Bradford, we find the Mayflower Compact. We find the idea of government by covenant, the idea that people sit down together and agree with one another on the rules for how they will get along with one another. This is similar to the idea of setting up the U.S. Constitution as a contract among people.
Before this traditional political theory had held that the way of government was set down by God and was more or less internal and you either followed it or you were a rebel against it. The king ruled because God had placed him in power. To rebel against the king was to rebel against God. This doesn't leave a whole lot of room for maneuvering, unless you can somehow draw into question the legitimacy of the king.
In this new way of seeing things we can set up a society. However, a contract is normally an agreement between two parties. A covenant goes beyond that to be an agreement between three parties: rulers, followers, and God. In fact, there is a return to this legal theory of Louisiana right now, covenant marriage. You can check a box on the marriage license which signs away your rights away to get a divorce easily. The idea is that marriage is not just a social contract between two people, but is a holy covenant between a man, a woman, and God. This is more of a Catholic tradition than a Protestant tradition. Especially the Puritans, they did away with the sacraments because it was Pageantry and doomed to eternal destruction. The only sacraments for them were the Eucharist, the Lord's supper and Baptism.Now let's look at something of an autobiography but also an account of the founding of the plantation; it wasn't just about him. They talk about the Word of God, the Light of the Word of God, and the would be central tendencies of most Protestant denominations was the need to study and interpret the Bible themselves. They looked into theology that came from ancient times, post Biblical times (second century on) but they didn't feel bound to it. They wanted to study the word of God, the freedom of the Gospel.
Protestants are ones who protest, Puritans are ones who want to purify the church. So Protestants are, by nature, rebels. They originally rebelled against Rome. The Puritans and Separatists are rebelling against the Church of England, rebelling against the way things are. We don't want this mixing of themselves as Christians with all these people who are not like us so are therefore not Christians. Puritans had to have a church that was based more on theology and practice, where the Anglicans under Elizabeth and James were trying to cast a big tent; they were trying to get as many people from as broad a perspective as possible.
When the Pilgrims got over to America, what happened to all of this individualism and rebellion and idea of I see things my way and do they my way based on God's guidance? Once they stepped on American soul, what happens to these Puritans, what are they now? The outcasts are now the ruling elite. The people that were the ones in jail are now building the jails. The persecuted now get to persecute. Do they remain into this idea of the individual conscience pursuing God as God leads that individual? No. They were here to worship their way. They did not come for freedom of religion; they came to establish their own religion, a theocracy. Differ from it, however little you might, and you would wind up in trouble. They put Quakers in jail for the way they wore their hats, and things like that (OK, there were also the Quakers who showed up at church on Sunday without hats. Or any other clothes.).
All the stuff we find about freedom and conscience and stuff like that in their writings while they were in England are given up. Anne Hutchinson got banished for holding on to such now-unpopular ideas. They have a covenant, they agreed to believe this way. If you don't believe in this way, don't come here.In the sections before your assignment, Bradford talks about people falling away in the low countries, which would be Holland. Pilgrims are tolerated in Holland, but they find that the influence of the Dutch is corrupting. He gives the reason for leaving on page 86 and the following. They are getting old, they are worried about the morality of their children being surrounded by all these Dutch people. So they set sail. He talks about a body politic "using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminency above the rest". So there is a form of democracy here, in that you don't have a lord that came over to be the governor and rule things as dictated by England. They made a deal with the government that they would be able to set this plantation up. As far as England is concerned it is a business. But as far as they are concerned it is a holy covenant and they will select leaders, such as Bradford, from among their midst.On page 81, we get a little insight into the Puritan idea that everything is caused and ordained and predestined or at least guided by the sovereignty of God, God ruled everything. It talks in Book I, Chapter IX about"There was a proud and very profane young man, one of the seamen, of a lusty, able body, which made him more haughty; he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness and cursing them daily with grievous execrations; and did not let to tell them that he hoped to help to cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey's end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved, he would curse and swear most bitterly."So he makes fun of the passengers. When the people started getting sea sick he said he was going throw them overboard and take their money and all of their stuff before the end of the voyage. He wasn't a very nice fellow."But it pleased God, before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so it was himself the first that was thrown over board."When he got sick, it was God smiting him. When you get a cold it is God smiting you, Satan testing you, or something of that nature. They believe in, general, if good things are going on in your life it's because you are pleasing God, if bad things happen to you it's because you are displeasing Him or because you are being persectued for your beliefs. But in general when they see something as with this fellow, they see it as God striking him down."Thus his curses light on his own head, and it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him."So God struck him down, and the Pilgrims were happy about it. Their enemy is stricken, he falls ill, and he dies. Do the Puritans cry about it? Do they exhibit Christian charity? It would be difficult to mourn for a person making fun of them, but you are supposed to be saintly people.They actually land north of where they wanted to. If you look at the bottom of the second paragraph on page 84, he talks about going in and exploring and finding the various things the land has to offer. They describe the foray typologically, by comparing their reconnaissance to that of the Israelite spies who went out from the children of Israel to scout out the land of Canaan to bring back food to the camp at Eshcol (Numbers 13:23-26). This is like that. Anything that happens to you is going to be like something you would find from your study of the Bible.Page 87. They had a bad night,"yet God gave them a morning of comfort and refreshing (as usually He doth to His children) for the next day was a fair, sunshining day, and they found themselves to be on an island secure from the Indians".So although there may problems we may encounter overall God is generally well disposed to us, the people who follow Him, and takes care of us. Once again, there are no real indirect causes, everything that seems to be just a chance event is actually under the power of God and His operations.
Back to Magee's HomepageEdited by Group 1, English 303-02 Winter Quarter 1998.