Half his friends had died, succumbing to the bitter cold of the strange land’s unforgiving winter. Harsh winds cut through the pilgrims’ miserable attempts at shelter as the treacherous frost settled in, an unwelcome neighbor throughout those agonizing months. During the darkest times, there were only a handful of people who remained strong enough to care for the rest of the settlers who still lived, though sorely distressed by the lack of adequate shelter and afflicted with various diseases.
This was the situation faced by William Brewster during the winter of 1620-1621. This man of God served as the chief elder of the pilgrims' church which they established upon their arrival at Plymouth in 1620. As an elder, Brewster was responsible for governing the pilgrims' church and preaching from the Word of God during services.
According to the journal of William Bradford, the colony’s first governor, William Brewster was deeply loved by his congregation as he was “inoffensive and innocent in his life and conversation… yet he would tell them plainly of their faults and evils, both publicly and privately, but in such a manner as usually was well taken from him.” He was plain and direct in his preaching style, and “had a singular good gift in prayer, both public and private, in ripping up the heart and conscience before God in the humble confession of sin, and begging the mercies of God in Christ for the pardon of the same.”
However, it was during the colonists’ first winter in the New World that Brewster’s faith was stretched to its limits. The cold New England winter exacted a heavy toll upon the small band of 102 pilgrims. By the end of their first year in America, only 52 settlers survived. Bradford recounts how during the worst weeks of the winter there were only six or seven colonists who remained healthy enough to care for all the others. These courageous men and women truly took to heart the words of their Savior when He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). William Brewster is specifically named as one of those few pilgrims who engaged in this self-sacrificial service as they helped prepare meals, built fires, washed clothes, and “did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren; a rare example and worthy to be remembered.”
Brewster’s faith was not simply a passive set of beliefs; instead, his convictions motivated him to action and sacrifice. Each entry into another disease-ridden dwelling, each word of comfort or encouragement, and each refusal to be overcome by despair was a reflection of William Brewster’s active faith in Christ. This is the kind of love and determination that formed the moral bedrock of our nation’s first settlers. This is the kind of ‘strordinary faith that we must reclaim in order to be effective witnesses for Christ!
The above article was written using information from the following sources:
A 'Strordinary Little Maid
Amy Le Feuvre, 1889
A'Strordinary Little Maid presents the gospel in colorful, bold, and often humorous ways. You'll laugh one minute, and the next minute you'll find yourself engaged in thoughtful attention to spiritual truths so basic yet so foreign to our culture today. Peggy's ability to share Jesus with those of all walks of life is so inspiring that you will fall in love with this delightful little maid! This literary gem is for children of all ages - and especially for adults who could use a good laugh as medicine to their souls!