Dr. Tom Berry

 We commonly think of America’s first Thanksgiving as December 18, 1620 (or some say the 21st) when a little band of immigrants disembarked the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth Rock.  Historians tell us their first act on touching the soil of the New World was to give thanks to God for their successful sixty-six day voyage.  But there was thanksgiving before this.  The pilgrims had been blown by a wintry gale into what was first called Cape’s End Harbor and later known as Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620.

 The pilgrims prepared a longboat called a shallop to explore the coast in order to find the most suitable location to settle.  On December 6th this open longboat with eighteen men aboard experienced the fury of a storm that forced them to land at Wellfleet Bay, drenched, shivering, and nearly frozen.  They built a fire and discovered signs of Indians.  The Indians stole into the camp during the night but were driven away.  The next day the men again boarded their craft in another storm.  Snow wiped out the landmarks, waves crashed over the boat, the rudder was smashed, the mast was splintered and only valiant rowing of oars brought them to safety in the sheltered lee of a land promontory.  Afraid of Indians, they first decided to spend the night in the boat, but a bitterly cold northwest wind moved John Clarke to announce, “I am going ashore.  I’d just as soon be killed by wild Indians as freeze to death aboard this boat.”  Clarke and a few others waded ashore and soon had a fire blazing.  The rest of the men in the boat soon followed. 

 They had landed on an island in Plymouth Harbor that they named Clarke’s Island in honor of John Clarke.  An old record reads that above everything else they wanted to conduct a religious service here for the purpose of giving thanks to the Lord for His mercies in our manifold deliverances.  There, by a large granite rock that can be seen to this day they kneeled to praise their God and offer prayer.  That was Saturday, December 8th.

  The group rested and repaired their craft and on December 17th sailed back to Cape’s End Harbor to report to the rest of the pilgrims the results of their explorations.  The next day a party from the Mayflower rowed ashore and landed near the now famous Plymouth Rock.  Again they humbly knelt before their God to lift their praise, thanksgiving and prayer.

 Thanksgiving to God was the proper way to begin the settlement of the New World.  It is also the proper way to express gratitude for God’s continued blessing.

 “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!  Laud Him, all you peoples!  For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord!”    Psalms 117.


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