Christians You Should Know: William Bradford December 6, 2023

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua 1:8

A Snapshot of the Life of William Bradford:

Born: March 19, 1589 – Austerfield, England

Died: May 9, 1657 – Plymouth, Massachusetts

Pilgrim father, historian and second governor of Plymouth Colony, 1621-57 (except for five years). Bradford succeeded John Carver as governor and maintained Plymouth’s independence from the nearby Massachusetts Bay Colony for a while. He was instrumental in developing fishing, trade, and agriculture. Bradford first joined the Brownists in England (1606), went to Amsterdam (1609), then to Leyden (1611), in search of religious freedom. Bradford arrived in America on the Mayfower in 1620. Only 56 of the 102 passengers survived the first winter. He was highly regarded by both Pilgrims and Indians. One son came from his marriage to Dorothy May on Dec. 10, 1613. She drowned after falling from the Mayflower deck in Plymouth harbor. He had three children from his marriage to Alice Carpenter on Aug. 14, 1623. Bradford wrote History of Plymouth Plantation (1630-31, 46-50), a key source of information on the colony. His farewell poem tells of his faith in Christ. His grave in Plymouth, MA states he was 69 years of age. Perhaps he was born in 1588. – (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)

A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:

The Mayflower voyage is one of the most famous ever undertaken. The Pilgrims on board were fleeing the religious persecution and perversion found in England and Holland. They experienced tremendous difficulties, but Bradford recorded that, “these things [difficulties] did not dismay them (though they did sometimes trouble them) for their desires were set on the ways of God, and to enjoy His ordinances, but they rested on His Providence and knew Whom they had believed.” They sought to worship God according to their conscience and take the gospel to unreached people. The de facto leader was a courageous man named William Bradford.

Bradford began suffering for his faith at the age of 18. He was sickened by the corruption and Christlessness of the state churches and desired to worship God according to Scripture. Bradford recorded that the Pilgrims, “shook off this yoke of antichristian bondage, and as the Lord’s free people joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in the fellowship of the gospel, to walk in all His ways made known, or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavors, whatsoever it should cost them.” How determined are we to obey God and follow His Word?

Thirty-two-year-old Willaim Bradford was overwhelmingly chosen to be the leader of the Pilgrims after John Carver’s death; this was before they arrived at Plymouth. William Bradford leaned heavily on the Lord and stood firm in his convictions. Despite frequent hardships, overwhelming loss, and grievous heartache Bradford noblly governed Plymouth. His writings are saturated with Scripture and Bible principles – evidencing his dependence on God.

Detailing the main reasons for the Pilgrim voyage, Bradford wrote this:

“Lastly, (and which was not least), a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as steppingstones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”

Let all of us reflect on our obedience to Christ. Are you obeying His guidance for your life today? More to the point, are you connecting your life to the eternal work of God? All of us will give our lives to something. Let us determine to give our lives for the “advancing the gospel” and as “steppingstones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”

A Suggestion for Further Reading…

History of Plimoth Plantation – Willaim Bradford

William Bradford: Plymouth’s Rock  – Janet and Geoff Benge (2016)

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