by Stephen Whitney

A Grateful Heart
Stephen Whitney
Psalm 138

From the top of the mainsail of the weathered old freighter came a cry that the passengers and crew had been waiting to hear for the last 65 days: "La-a-nd ho! La-a-nd ho! Sleepy men and women stumbled out of their bunks, still not sure what they had heard, but there it was again. "Land ho!"

It was seven o'clock in the morning on November 9, 1620. The Mayflower which had left out of Portsmouth, England in early September had finally reached North America. Shouts of joy mingled with tears of grief. William Brewster, the Elder of this small band of 102 of Puritan believers who had left in England in search of religious freedom, suggested a song of gratitude.

From the believers came the words of Psalm 100: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before him with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God."

Brewster and the other leaders rushed up to the captain, Christopher Jones and asked him what part of North America they were approaching. He told them the long low shore was known to English sailors as Cape Cod, for the magnificent fishing, especially cod, in the waters which were around it.

"Instinctively many of the Puritans fell upon their knees," recalled Governor Bradford, "and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean . . . to set their feet on the firm and stable earth."

At ten o'clock the Mayflower dropped anchor a mile off shore. The passengers roamed from stem to stern studying the land. The longer they looked, the less elated they were. Recalling that day Bradford later wrote, "Summer being done . . . the whole country, full of woods and thickets . . . What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and his grace?"

Sustained they were despite the terrible trials of that first winter. They held their first Thanksgiving feast the following November 1621 after they had brought in a substantial harve ...

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