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We have seen the little company of the Plymothean Pilgrims, in the first place, determining to forsake all for Christ. We have seen them persecuted, afflicted, distressed, though not in despair. We have seen them quitting their dear-loved homes and country, and flying to a neighboring community, that kindly opened her arms, to receive them. We have seen these devoted Pilgrims determining to seek a refuge in the new world, and then committing themselves to the mercy of the winds and waves, under the guidance of their Almighty Friend. With trembling solicitude, we have followed them across the mountain waves of the angry deep, while there often seemed but a step between them and death. We have had the satisfaction to view them safely anchored in their desired haven, secure from rocks and shoals
What distinguished character joined the Plymotheans in 1624 ? †
and tides and storms. Having rejoiced with them here for a moment, we have found, that this was not their rest. We have seen them enduring still greater hardships and exposures, and many of them sinking to their eternal rest. We have seen the emaciated survivors, continued in the furnace of affliction, still trusting in God, patient in trib ulation, rejoicing in hope. We have seen them increased by small accessions of their friends, exposed to death from the vengeance of sur rounding natives, who had plotted to shed their blood. From this horrid conspiracy, we have seen them delivered by the wonderworking providence of God, through the instrumentality of the faithful Massasoit, and the desperate valor of Standish and his little army.
Let us now behold them under a trial much more unexpected, and perhaps scarcely less excruciating, than any of the preceding. This was occasioned by a conspiracy, formed among themselves, for the
In what employment, had Lyford been engaged?
In what manner, did he salute the Plymotheans?
How did they receive him? What special mark of respect did Bradford show him? What special privilege did he desire ?
purpose of overturning at once, their infant church and state.
With whom, did Lyford soon become intimately acquainted? What spirit did they soon manifest?
With what, was it suspected, that Lyford's letters to England were fraught
Who ascertained this point?
ance with Mr. John Oldham. They soon became intimate, and manifested a spirit of perverseness and malignity. They spared no pains, to draw as many as possible, into their faction. However vile and profane, they were received by these conspirators, and encouraged in their wickedness, especially in speaking evil of the church. Private meetings and whisperings were multiplied, while they were feasting their imaginations in anticipation of the great things, which they hoped to accomplish. Notwithstanding all their efforts to preserve a fair appearance, their works of darkness could not wholly elude the vigilance of Bradford and others.
Early in the spring of 1624, came over Mr. John Lyford, sent by some of the adventurers in England. He had been a preacher. When he came ashore, he saluted the Plymotheans with the greatest apparent reverence and humility. "And indeed," says Morton, "he made them ashamed, he so bowed and cringed unto them, and would have kissed their hands, if they would have suffered him. Yea, he wept, and shed many tears, blessing God, that had brought him to see their faces, and admiring the things they had done in their wants, as if he had been made all of love, and the humblest person in the world." They received him with the utmost At length, the ship, which brought kindness, and gave him the best Lyford, was about to return to Engentertainment, their poverty could land. It had been observed, that afford. Indeed the great Bradford for some time, he had been much himself was so pleased with his ap- engaged in writing letters; and it parent piety, affection and intelliwas suspected, that they were deepgence, that in difficult cases, hely fraught with evil. The governwould often consult Lyford, as though he had been another Brew
or and some of his friends fearing, that Lyford's letters might have a pernicious influence in England, thought it their duty to make diligent search, to ascertain their contents. They accordingly went to the ship, that lay at some distance, and called for all the letters, that had been sent there by Lyford and Oldham. It happened very fortunately, that Mr. Pierce, the Capt. of the vessel, was friendly to Bradford, and willing to afford him every possible aid in detecting and exposing the strange machinations of these two men. He accordingly produced all their letters, entrusted
Why did Bradford say nothing of Lyford's letters, for some weeks What officer did Oldham abuse with most opprobrious language?
What duty had Standish required him to perform?
What punishment was then inflicted upon Oldham ?
Who soon held a separate meeting on the Sabbath?
Who were assembled, when a court was formed, to try the disor
Conduct of Oldham, when Brad-ganizers ?
to his care. Twenty were found As it was judged necessary to from the pen of Lyford; many of keep a guard, to prevent being surthem long, and most copiously re- prised by hostile Indians, Oldham plenished with slanders and railing was called upon by Capt. Standish, accusations against the Plymothe- to take his turn in the performance ans, tending to the injury and ruin of that duty. But Oldham refused of their colony. Of most of these, to obey the Captain's order, called they took copies, and sent the orig-him rascal, and beggarly rascal, inals to England. Of some of the worst, they kept the originals, and sent copies to England. These originals they kept, to witness against him, and to prevent the possibility of his denying them to be his.
The conspirators, suspecting what was the governor's errand to the ship, appeared somewhat abashed, when he returned. But the discoveries being kept a profound secret, in a few weeks, they appeared as brisk and cheerful as ever, and proceeded to the completion of their nefarious arrangements. The design of this silence was to discover their accomplices. That they had accomplices, was too evident already. For besides the letters of Lyford and Oldham, they found one from another hand, stating, that these men intended to have a reformation in church and commonwealth, and that as soon as the ship was gone, they intended to join together, and have the sacrament separately. Oldham's letters showed him to be as deep in the plot as Lyford.
At length, the conspirators began more openly to attempt the execution of their wicked designs. They manifested a disposition to find fault and contend with one and another for the merest trifle.
and drew his knife at him, though Standish offered him not the least violence, nor gave him one unpleasant word. Gov. Bradford hearing the tumult, sent a messenger to quell it. But Oldham, becoming still more outrageous, ranted with great fury, and called them all traitors. Upon this, he was apprehended, and committed to prison. Appearing much moderated by the infliction of a small punishment, he was released upon trial.
Shortly after, Lyford and his accomplices, without the least intimation to the Gov. the elder or the church, withdrew themselves, and held a separate meeting on the Sabbath, with many manifestations of an insolent and factious disposition.
It was thought high time to call these disorganizers to account. A court being formed, and the whole company assembled, Lyford and Oldham were called to the bar of justice. They were accused of plotting against the colony, and disturbing the peace of both church and state. These charges, drawn out in many particulars, they almost totally denied, and boldly demanded proof. Lyford pretended to regard many allegations with astonishment. His letters were then produced; and he was instantly struck dumb. Not so with
Of what, were Lyford and Oldham accused?
How did they treat these charges ?
What evidence was then produced against Lyford?
How was Lyford affected?
Oldham. He broke out in rage and fury, bitterly complaining, that their letters were intercepted. Nor did he stop here. Then, and there it was, that he erected the standard of open mutiny, and called his partizans to immediate rebellion. "My masters," said he, "where are your hearts? Now show your courage. You have often complained to me. Now is the time, if you will do any thing. I will stand by you," &c. &c. But none of his party dared to speak, or to move, in opposition to authority.
The Gov. then turned to Lyford, exhibited his letters, caused them to be openly read, and made such a striking exhibition of his hypocrisy, treachery and ingratitude, as filled all his confederates with shame and confusion.
After a while, poor Lyford recovered a little courage, and attempted to palliate his crimes.
He said, that several persons had made complaints to him, and stated particulars. But this only conduced to plunge him deeper in the mire. The persons being all present, denied every word.
They then proceeded to deal with him more particularly respecting his dissimulation in the church, &c. &c. "In conclusion, he was fully convicted, and burst out into tears, and confessed, he feared he was a reprobate; his sins were so great, that he doubted, that God would not pardon them; he was unsavory salt, &c. and that he had so wronged them, as he could never make them amends; confessed all
To what, did he then call his partizans? ·?
How did his partizans appear With what, were Lyford's confederates filled, when his conduct was more particularly exposed?
How did Lyford attempt to pal
liate his crimes?
Why did he not succeed in this?
he had written against them, was false and naught, both for matter and manner; and all this he did with as much fulness, as words and tears could express."
Thus convicted and condemned, Lyford and Oldham were tenced to banishment; Oldham, to depart immediately, and Lyford, after six months. They had some hope that Lyford's repentance was sincere, and that his conduct would be such, as to render it consistent to remit his punishment. Accordingly, the one departed, and the other remained.
Lyford acknowledged, that his censure was far less, than he deserved, and afterwards confessed his sin to the church with more fulness and more weeping than before. He confessed, that if God should make him a vagabond in the earth, like Cain, it would be just. He confessed, that three things had excited him to these works of iniquity, pride, vain-glory and selflove.
Some were so affected with the appearance of his deep sorrow and repentance, that they were willing to fall on their knees, and beg for his restoration.
About two months after, he wrote a letter to the adventurers in England. The person, to whom the letter was entrusted, delivered it to Gov. Bradford. What must have been the grief, as well as amazement of that good man, when he saw its contents. After all Lyford's convictions, confessions and public acknowledgments in the
How did he manifest his sorrow, when he was fully convicted?
What did he confess respecting what he had written against the people of Plymouth?
What sentence was pronounced against Lyford and Oldham ?
Why did they give Lyford a respite of six months?
presence of God and his church and the whole company, with so many tears and censures of himself, he had now the hardiness and presumption to justify almost all things contained in his former letters, which he had acknowledged to be such egregious lies and slanders.
Early the next year, 1625, Oldham had the presumption to return to Plymouth, contrary to his sentence of expulsion. He now appeared more outrageous than ever. He called them all rebels and traitors. His fury was soon moderated, however, by imprisonment. Being taken out of prison, he was compelled to pass between a number of soldiers, each of whom was ordered to give him a blow with the but end of his musket. He was then conducted to the water-side, and consigned to a boat, with this farewell, Go, and mend your man
About a year afterwards, he was exposed to imminent danger at sea, on the shoals of Cape Cod. At that awful extremity, fearing that every hour would be his last, a sense of his guilt rushed upon him, like a giant. He trembled; he prayed; though perhaps he had never before so much as attempted to offer up a desire to God. To his companions in danger, he confessed, that he had exceedingly injured the church and people of Plymouth; and that, as he had sought their ruin, so God had now met with him, and might destroy him. He prayed God to forgive him; and made a vow of reformation, if his life should be
What did Lyford acknowledge respecting his sentence?
To whom, did he afterwards make more full confession?
How soon after, did he justify almost every slander, that he had confessed?
In what year, did Oldham return to Plymouth?
spared. The vow thus made in the deep anguish of his soul, there is reason to hope, he was enabled, in some measure, to keep. His conduct toward the good people of Plymouth, was afterwards very different.
About ten years after, he was murdered by the Indians, in his own vessel, near Block island. His death was one cause of the Pequot war the next year.
When Lyford's six months were expired, so far from reformation, he had doubled his crimes, and was only fit to be cast out, as unsavory salt. It appeared upon farther in quiry, that he had been a profligate character, and had caused many a heart to bleed in Ireland and England.
Banished from Plymouth, be went to Nantasket, (now Hull near Boston) thence, to Salem; and thence, to Virginia, where he died.
The conduct of Lyford is suited to teach us a most solemn and awful lesson. We can hardly help supposing, that he was in some measure, insane. This is perhaps always the case with those, who are guilty of such horrible inconsistency. But this insanity, no doubt, is generally produced by the indulgence of pride, passion, sensuality, &c. By the excessive abuse of reason, the faculty is essentially impaired. Let him, that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall. Let us beware of hypocrisy in ourselves and others.
But while we detest the hypocrite, as the vilest of the vile, let