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The Mystery of the Lost Book

A people came to the shores of North America who called themselves, like Abraham, Pilgrims.  They came because they would not be slaves to those who wanted to tell them how to worship and live for God.  And God used them to establish the first Christian nation in the world just as God, through the Israelites, had established the nation of Israel in the Promised Land.  The story of their "exodus" and settlement in their "Promised Land" was written by their governor, William Bradford about 1650.  It was passed from father to son until the Revolutionary War.  Then it disappeared.  Why would a story that tells of the establishment of a country honoring God and showing His providence in every line pass totally out of existence?  What became of it?  Was it lost forever?  Would God's wonderful acts in the settlement of the Plymouth colony never be known?

 

If you wanted to find such a book, where would you begin?  Would you look for a book by its title?  But what if the title were changed?  And what if it were no longer in your country?  What if you had no idea who last had it?  It seems there would be no way to find such a small, insignificant thing.  But God...

 

It is the year 1855.  John Wingate Thornton, a pastor, suddenly became a detective - a book detective!  He was relaxing one day in a bookstore in New England reading a "a very dull book."  "Why am I reading such a dull book," he thought.  "I surely must be wasting my time."  But was he?  All of a sudden he realized as he was reading the "dull and stupid" book that something sounded familiar.

 

"Why," he thought to himself, "this sounds just like some of the writings of William Bradford.  It’s his style and the words are exactly what I’ve read in excerpts from his manuscript."  No wonder Mr. Thornton was excited.  He had recognized quotations from Bradford’s manuscript- the true history of the Pilgrims’ settling in Massachusetts a long, long time ago.  Actually, they had settled there over 200 years before Mr. Thornton started reading in that bookstore in Massachusetts.

 

In the book he was reading were quotations from a book called, "The Log of the Mayflower."  Now if you know anything about the name "Mayflower" you know that it has to do with the trip the Pilgrims took coming to America.  This made Mr. Thornton very excited.

 

"I’d like to buy this book," he told the bookseller.  Then he took the "dull book" to a friend, Mr. Barry, whom he knew was also very interested in the Pilgrims’ history.

 

"This has to be a clue to the precious book we’ve been looking for so long," he exclaimed.  "Let me examine it for a while."

 

Mr. Barry examined the book that talked about "The Log of the Mayflower" then he took it to another man, Mr. Charles Deane, who was just as eager to find the long lost book as he and Mr. Thornton were.  Mr. Deane was a famous historical "detective."  As he began investigating he found that there was, indeed, a book called "The Log of the Mayflower" but could it be the book written by William Bradford so long ago.  After all, that book had been gone for 80 years.  And Bradford had called it "Of Plymouth Plantation."  Mr. Deane went hunting for the "The Log of the Mayflower. "

 

"I wonder," he thought, "will this book lead me to Bradford's history?  Is it possible that the" ‘Log of the Mayflower’ could really be ‘Of Plymouth Plantation’?  I can hardly believe it.  After all these years!"  Mr. Deane found the "Log of the Mayflower" and compared the handwriting of Wm. Bradford with the writing in it.

 

"It is, it is!" he thought, "it surely is Bradford’s book."

 

How excited everyone was.  Yes, they had found the history written by William Bradford.  It had been gone for eighty years.  Only God could take such good care of one of his works.  And only He could make it possible to find such an important book.  (This reminds us of a story in II Kings 22.)  The book lost in the story in II Kings was right where it was supposed to be: in the temple.  But where was "Of Plymouth Plantation" and how would they get it back?  But could they get it back?  I won’t keep you guessing any longer yes, they did get it back.

 

Are you glad it was found?  I am.  And would you like to read such a wonderful book?  You can!  Because, guess what, it was returned!  I know.  Copies of it were made and I have a copy.  And it is as exciting as the Bible itself because God is the One who makes history and "He has made his wonderful works to be remembered...." (Psalm 111:4).  Would you, also, like to know where it was found and how it was gotten back?  That is another story for another day-and you can read the end of this exciting "detective story" because someone finally decided to write that whole, wonderful story.

 

Nineteen ninety-seven was the one hundredth anniversary of the return of "Of Plymouth Plantation” to Massachusetts and it was I who, to celebrate that lovely event, not only wrote the ending, but the story from beginning to end.  I’ve called it "The Governor’s Story."  You can read about those fifty years of trying to get back Bradford’s "Of Plymouth Plantation," as well as about those eighty years when men were wondering, "Will we ever find Bradford’s history again?"

 

If you like a good mystery story, you can read about "The Governor’s Story" right on this web site.  In fact, you can order "The Governor’s Story" from this site!  Do it now!  You know, I love to read it myself over and over.  God is so good! You’ll be surprised how exciting folks who’ve read it have found history can be when we see God’s hand working his providential wonders.  I get excited just thinking about it.


Question:  Who said: "Men do not make laws.  They do but discover them.  Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest upon the eternal foundation of righteousness."

 

Answer:  Calvin Coolidge, January 7, 1914.


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