Our National Heritage

So He guides them to their desired haven. —PSALM 107:30

The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth Harbor on Wednesday, September 6, 1620, and the voyage to America felt like a nightmare. The ship was about the length of a tennis court, and it hadn’t been designed for passengers, only for cargo. As a result, all 102 passengers and the 25 or so crew members were crammed into tight spaces. The passengers spent most of their time in the darkness of the gun deck, which measured twenty-five by fifteen feet at its broadest point and was barely over five feet high. The children could stand up, but everyone else was forced to crawl on hands and knees.
The ship rolled and pitched and made slow progress—the voyage lasted sixty-six days. Seasickness was rampant, and there was little means of sanitation. A large contingent of stowaway cockroaches and rats accompanied the Pilgrims, and the heavy seas hit the walls of the Mayflower like sledgehammers, sending rivulets of cold water into the hold, drenching the Pilgrims and turning everything into a sodden mess.
The Pilgrims, however, never lost sight of God. Midway through the voyage on September 22, they read the scripture for the day and felt it was placed in the Bible just for them. It was Psalm 107, a glorious psalm of thanksgiving, which expresses the gratitude of various groups of people who experienced God’s watchful care over their lives. One portion of the psalm was spoken by those on dangerous voyages who rejoice because their God controls the elements and knows how to guide them to safe harbors and to their desired haven. Verses 23–31 say:

  Those who go down to the sea in ships,
  Who do business on great waters,
  They see the works of the LORD,
  And His wonders in the deep.
  For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
  Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
  They mount up to the heavens,
  They go down again to the depths;
  Their soul melts because of trouble.
  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
  And are at their wits’ end.
  Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
  And He brings them out of their distresses.
  He calms the storm,
  So that its waves are still.
  Then they are glad because they are quiet;
  So He guides them to their desired haven.
  Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
  And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

When the Mayflower finally sailed into its “desired haven” of Cape Cod, the Pilgrims hammered out a formal and binding agreement, which is known as the Mayflower Compact and was signed aboard ship on November 11, 1620:

In the Name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten . . . having undertaken for the Glory of God, and the Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick.

In their book The Light and the Glory, Peter Marshall and David Manuel wrote:

The Mayflower Compact would become the cornerstone of American representative government. Although the Pilgrims had no idea of the significance for America of what they had done, it marked the first time in history since the children of Israel in the Sinai wilderness that free and equal men had voluntarily covenanted together to create their own new civil government based on Biblical principles.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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