What is the role of God in the settler experience according to Bradford?

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lusie0520's profile pic

lusie0520 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The role of God in the settler experience, according to William Bradford, is that God is responsible for all the good things that happen.  For example, while they are sailing, the main beam on the ship breaks, and the settlers and the sailors come together to think of a way to fix it.  Once it is fixed, Bradford gives the credit to God, not to the men.  Also, one of the settlers falls off the ship, and when they rescue him, Bradford states that this is because God wanted him to go on to do great things for the town.  When they arrive safely in the New World, Bradford thanks God for getting them there.

Once on land, the settlers become very ill.  First, Bradford tells of the seven people who were able to remain well enough to help the sick, and he says that God kept them well to nurse the sick.  He also notes that the sailors would not help them when they were ill, and soon the sailors were ill, as well.  He does not come right out and say it, but it is obvious that he thinks God had a hand in that as well.  He also thanks God later on for Squanto, who, in his opinion, is sent by God to help the settlers learn to live in the new land.  William Bradford, in true Puritan style,  gives God credit for almost everything that happens.

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jeffclark's profile pic

jeffclark | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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It is difficult in our modern times to fully comprehend and understand the depth of the colonists' devotion to God and to ordering their lives and their society according to what they perceived as "God's will."

God is involved in every aspect of the settlers' experience because His hand is seen in everything that happens.

If something bad happens, it is seen as the chastisement of God.

If something good happens, it is seen as a reward from God.

If nothing at all happens, it is seen as the will of God playing out.

As you read through his writing, Bradford's understanding of this inextricable connection between God and every part of life shines through in the words he uses, the opinions he shares, and the conclusions he reaches.

Nowhere does this come through as clearly as in the Mayflower Compact itself. This was their charter, their "constitution" if you will, by which they decided they would live and conduct their lives—even before they landed. 

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