Seven Important Quotes to Read at
the Thanksgiving Table
1. The Old 100th: The Thanksgiving Psalm of the Pilgrims
It was their deep devotion to God, commitment to sound doctrine and the pure faith which primarily motivated the Pilgrims to endure great trials and hardships for the hope of a multi-generational vision of victory. In obedience to God and to strengthen their spirits, the Pilgrims became known as people of song. They loved to sing and did so often, not only during the meeting of the church, but in the course of daily life. The Psalms were in the forefront of their musical repertoire for life, and few Psalms were as beloved as “The Old 100th.” Because books like psalters were precious and rare, they practiced a form of congregational singing in which one line would be sung or “called out” and the congregation would sing it back in unison. Here is the Old 100th, from the Geneva Bible, set to verse, Pilgrim style:
Shout to Jehova all the earth,
Serve ye Jehova with gladness,
Enter his gates with singing mirth,
No that Jehova, he God is.
It’s He that made us and not we,
His folk and sheep of His feeding
Oh with confession enter ye
His gates, his courtyards with praising.
Confess to him, bless ye his name,
Because Jehova he Good is.
His mercy ever is the same,
And his faith unto all ages. Amen.
2. The Greatest Quote Concerning the Resolve of the Pilgrims
The simple sentence below by William Bradford is one of the most powerful in all of Christian literature, for it is a commentary on the meaning of holy risk-taking and the pursuit of righteousness and the kingdom of God:
So they committed themselves to the will of God, and resolved to proceed.
3. William Bradford’s Multi-Generational Vision
Just over fifty Pilgrims survived the first winter. But from them came more than thirty million descendants and a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. More importantly, their vision was one of holy, Christ-centered, multi-generational faithfulness.
Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways toward it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.
Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.
4. The Mayflower Compact: The Document That Shaped American Freedom under Christ
It has been persuasively argued that the Mayflower Compact, signed just prior to the Pilgrim’s arrival in Plymouth, was not only the critical step to quelling unrest and ensuring the unity and success of the Pilgrim society, but it became a foundation for the covenantal understanding of government under God embraced by the colonies and later the Founding Fathers. Significantly, this document appears to be an inspiration for later charters like the Declaration of Independence. It was a document signed by male heads of household and drafted with the goal of establishing a holy and orderly civil society. It begins with the awe-inspiring words — “In the name of God, Amen” — which is arguably the most powerful introduction of any document in the history of Western Civilization.
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our 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 one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.
5. The Eyewitness Accounts of the Thanksgiving Story from Gov. Winslow’s Mourt’s Relation, and from Governor William Bradford’s Of Plimouth Plantation
There are two and only two primary source accounts of the first Thanksgiving. They are presented below in the original English. They must be read in the context of the larger record given by Bradford and Winslow concerning the Pilgrim story.
The Thanksgiving Story as Told by Edward Winslow
Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.
The Thanksgiving Story as Told by William Bradford
They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; For as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their friends in England, which were not fained, but true reports.
6. The Great Declaration of Praise and Thanksgiving Offered by William Bradford for the Providential Deliverance of the Pilgrims
May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: “Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice, and looked on their adversity, etc.” Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good, and his mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, show how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry, and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men.
7. Pastor John Robinson’s Wise Words of Counsel to the Departing Pilgrims on Their Duties in Building a New Christian Society
The letter of John Robinson to the departing Mayflower Pilgrims ranks as one of the greatest pastoral letters with the most far-reaching influence in all of history. Robinson made the difficult decision to stay behind with those members of the congregation who would not or could not make the journey.
The letter is brilliant for its precision and the powerful concepts communicated, but most importantly, it really embodies the wisdom and holiness of the life and worldview of the Scrooby congregation. Some of the concepts of this pastoral letter were actually incorporated into the Mayflower Compact, a document which itself was built upon themes articulated in the Scrooby Covenant of 1607. Below is a quote, but make sure to read the letter in its entirety.
Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminency above the rest, to be chosen by you into office of government; let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations, not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God’s ordinance for your good; not being like the foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the Lord’s power and authority which the magistrate beareth, is honorable, in how means persons soever. And this duty you both may the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform, because you are at least for the present to have only them for your ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that work.
Robinson also wrote:
This holy army of saints is marshaled here on earth … under the conduct of their glorious Emperor, Christ. Thus it marches in this most heavenly order and glorious array, against all enemies … peaceable in itself, as Jerusalem … terrible to the enemy as an army with banners, triumphing over their tyranny with patience, their cruelty with meekness, and over death itself with dying. . . . The gates of hell, and all the principalities and powers on earth shall not prevail against it.