The Longevity of the Pilgrims

William Bradford’s comment on the long life enjoyed by many of the Pilgrims, in spite of the many difficulties and hardships they suffered:

“I cannot but here take occasion, not only to mention, but greatly to admire the marvelous providence of God, that notwithstanding the many changes and hardships that these people went through, and the many enemies they had and difficulties they met with all, that so many of them should live to very old age! It was not only this reverend man’s condition, but many more of them did the like, some dying about and before this time, and many still living, who attained to 60 years of age, and to 65, diverse to 70 and above, and some near 80, as he did. It must needs be more then ordinary, and above natural reason, that so it should be; for it is found in experience, that change of air, famine, or unwholesome food, much drinking of water, sorrows & troubles, etc. all of them are enemies to health, causes of many diseases, consumers of natural vigor and the bodies of men, and shorteners of life. And yet of all these things they had a large part and suffered deeply in the same. They went from England to Holland, where they found both worse air and diet than that they came from; from thence (enduring a long imprisonment, as it were, in the ships at sea) into New England…and what crosses, troubles, fears, wants, and sorrows they had been liable unto, is easy to conjecture…What was it then that upheld them? It was God’s visitation that preserved their spirits…He that upheld the Apostle [Paul] upheld them. They were persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but perished not (II Cor. 4:9). God, it seems, would have all men to behold and observe such mercies and works of his providence as these are towards his people, that they in like cases might be encouraged to depend upon God in their trials, and also bless his name when they see his goodness towards others.”

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