William Bradford in ‘Of the Plimoth Plantation’

The biblical-theological significance behind the Pilgrim’s sentiments and actions should not be forgotten. Sadly, Unitarian churches now line the streets of the original site of Plymouth Plantation. Not one of them preach the gospel—the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was so loved by our forerunners.

In downtown Plymouth, not even a mile from Burial Hill, where men like William Bradford and William Brewster are buried, and only a short walk from the famed Plymouth Rock, there stands Bradford’s statue. Suppressed and ignored, yet not silenced, Bradford’s words etched in the base of his statue are a constant call to gospel-repentance inadvertently addressed to the town of Plymouth and indeed to the nation as a whole. The brief excerpt, now carved in stone, from Bradford’s Of the Plimoth Plantation reads:

Lastly (and which was not least) a great hope, & inward zeall they had of laying some good foundation (or at least to make some way thereunto) for ye propagating & advancing the gospel of ye kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of ye world, yea, though they should be but even as stepping stones, unto others for ye performing of so great a work.[1]

What a call to something radically different than what we know today. We think of ourselves first and wouldn’t dare be the stepping stones for future generations. In our modern minds, we are the end rather than the means. We can learn so much from the robust truth contained in so little words from Bradford. My, how the Puritans had a knack for forceful and powerful brevity. Yet, perhaps it isn’t the Puritans so much as it is their commitment to the Word of God, which contains infinite truths in so little as a thousand or so pages.


[1] I have preserved the original spelling and grammar. Please note that “ye” in this context may be read as “the,” since the English “y” was an adaptation from the Old English “thor.” Also note that Bradford is referring to himself and his fellow settlers in the third person, not to any other group of people. Words like, “though they should be but even as stepping stones,” could just as easily be read as, “though we should be but even as stepping stones.”

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