The Sin and Danger of Self-Love / Described by a Sermon Preached At Plymouth, in New-England, 1621

The Sin and Danger of Self-Love / Described by a Sermon Preached At Plymouth, in New-England, 1621

Robert Cushman
Robert Cushman

Author: Cushman, Robert, 1579?-1625
New England — History — Colonial period
ca. 1600-1775
Congregational churches — Sermons — Early works to 1800
Pride and vanity — Sermons — Early works to 1800
American — Early works to 1800
The Sin and Danger of Self-Love
Described by a Sermon Preached At Plymouth, in New-England, 1621
Transcribers Note: The typesetting in the book was poor, all errors have been retained as printed.


Dec. 22, 1846.


Robert Cushman, the author of the preceding discourse, was one of the most distinguished characters among that collection of worthies, who quitted England on account of their religious difficulties, and settled with Mr. John Robinson, their pastor in the city of Leyden, in Holland, in the year 1609. Proposing afterwards a removal to America in the year 1617, Mr. Cushman and Mr. John Carver, (afterwards the first Governor of New-Plymouth) were sent over to England, as their agents, to agree with the Virginia Company for a settlement, and to obtain, if possible, a grant of liberty of conscience in their intended plantation, from King James.
From this negotiation though conducted on their part with great discretion and ability, they returned unsuccessful to Leyden, in May 1618. They met with no difficulty indeed with the Virginia Company, who were willing to grant them sufficient territory, with as ample privileges as they could bestow: but the pragmatical James, the pretended vicegerent of the Deity, refused to grant them that liberty in religious matters, which was their principal object—when this persevering people finally determined to transport themselves to this country, relying upon James’s promise that he would connive at, though not expressly tolerate them; Mr. Cushman was again dispatched to England in February 1619, with Mr. William Bradford, another of the company, to agree with the Virginia Company on the terms of their removal and settlement.
After much difficulty and delay, they obtained a patent in the September following, upon which part of the Church at Leyden, with their Elder Mr. Brewster determined to transport themselves as procure money, shipping and other necessaries for the voyage, and finally embarked with them at South-Hampton, August 5th, 1620. But the ship, in which he sailed, proving leaky, and after twice putting into port to repair, being finally condemned as unfit to perform the voyage, Mr. Cushman with his family, and a number of others were obliged, though reluctantly, to relinquish the voyage for that time and returned to London. Those in the other ship proceeded and made their final settlement at Plymouth in December 1620, where Mr. Cushman also arrived in the ship Fortune from London, on the 10th of November 1621, but took passage in the same ship back again, pursuant to the directions of the merchant adventurers in London, (who fitted out the ship and by whose assistance the first settlers were transported) to give them an account of the plantation. [A] He sailed from Plymouth December 13th, 1621, and arriving on the coast of England, the ship, with a cargo, valued at 500l. sterling, was taken by the French. Mr. Cushman, with the crew, was carried into France; but arrived in London in the February following. During his short residence at Plymouth, though a mere lay character, he delivered the preceding discourse, which was printed in London in 1622, and afterwards re-printed in Boston in 1724. And though his name is not prefixed to either edition, yet unquestionable tradition renders it certain that he was the author, and even transmits to us a knowledge of the spot where it was delivered. Mr. Cushman, though he constantly corresponded with his friends here, and was very serviceable to their interest in London—never returned to the country again, but while preparing for it was removed to a better, in the year 1626. The news of his death and Mr. Robinson’s arrived at the same time at Plymouth, by Captain Standish, and seem to have been equally lamented by their bereaved and suffering friends there. He was zealously engaged in the prosperity of the plantation, a man of activity and enterprise, well versed in business, respectable in point of intellectual abilities, well accomplished in scriptural knowledge, an unaffected professor, and a steady sincere practiser of religion. The design of the following discourse was to keep up the noble flow of public spirit, which perhaps began then to abate, but which was necessary for their preservation and security.
After the death of Mr. Cushman, his family came over to New England. His son, Thomas Cushman, succeeded Mr. Brewster, as ruling elder of the Church of Plymouth, being ordained to that office in 1649. He was a man of good gifts, and frequently assisted in carrying on the public worship, preaching, and catechising. For it was one professed principle of that Church, in its first formation, ‘to choose none for governing Elders, but such as were able to teach.’ He continued in this office till he died, in 1691, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.

It seems to be a mistaken idea that Mr. Cushman started in the smaller vessel, which put back on account of its proving leaky. This mistake has arisen from the fact that Mr. C. was left in England in 1620, and did not come over in the Mayflower with the first emigrants. The fact is that Mr. Cushman procured ‘the larger vessel,’ the Mayflower, and its pilot at London and left in that vessel; but in consequence of the unsoundness of the smaller vessel, the Speedwell, it became necessary that part of the pilgrims should be left behind, and consequently Mr. Cushman, whom Gov. Bradford called ‘the right hand with the adventurers,’ and who ‘for divers years had managed all our business with them to our great advantage,’ was selected as one who would be best able to keep together that portion of the flock left behind. Although Mr. Cushman did not come over in the Mayflower, yet such was the respect for him among those who did come, that his name is placed at the head of those who came in that ship, in the allotment of land at a time when he was not in New England. [A]
N. B. S.


Boston, Dec. 21, 1846.
Dear Sir:
Having communicated to me your intention of publishing a new edition of Robert Cushman’s memorable discourse, delivered in Plymouth, 1621, together with the memoir of the author, which I prepared for the edition printed by Nathaniel Coverly in Plymouth, in 1785; I take the liberty to advise you to follow for your purpose that copy of the memoir which was inserted by the Rev. Dr. Belknap in the second volume of his American Biography, with the addition of some particulars respecting the family, especially of elder Thomas Cushman, son of Robert Cushman, and who, like his father, was held in high esteem by all his cotemporaries.
The original memoir prepared for the Plymouth edition, was anonymous. My highly esteemed friend the Rev. Dr. Belknap, in giving it a place in his valuable work was pleased to announce the name of the writer.
The remarks on the discourse originally accompanying the memoir, were prompted by views supposed to have been adopted by the Plymouth pioneers respecting property and civil polity, in which I was afterwards convinced I had made a mistake. I had adopted an opinion corresponding with that of Dr. Robertson and other writers, that misguided by their religious theories and in imitation of the primitive christians, they voluntarily threw all their property into a common stock. And that their difficulties and embarrassments were greatly enhanced by adopting, and perseveringly adhering to an impracticable system. But further inquiry induced the conviction that this conjecture was erroneous, and that the severe pressure they experienced, was in a great degree produced by the operation of their articles of agreement with the adventurers in England, which established a community of interest for seven years, and prevented the holding in severalty the fruits of their industry and enterprise.
These views of the subject, and an acknowledgement of my previous mistake, were expressed in a discourse delivered at Plymouth, in the year 1800, on the anniversary of the landing of the fathers. The Rev. Mr. Abbot of Beverly, afterwards, on a like occasion, without any knowledge of the contents of that discourse, which was not published, was led in his investigation of the subject, into a similar conclusion, and fully vindicated the pilgrims from the censures which had been expressed relative to this branch of their proceedings. The onerous connection with the merchant adventurers remained until 1627, when an amicable and satisfactory settlement was made with them by a purchase of all their interest in the concern. The sum contracted to be given for this purchase, was 1800 pounds sterling, payable by instalments of 200 pounds annually.
Thus says Governor Bradford in one of his letters:
“All now is become our own, as we say in the proverb, when our debts are paid. And doubtless this was a great mercy of God unto us, and a great means of peace and better subsistence, and wholly dashed all the plots and devices of our enemies, both there and here, who daily expected our ruin, dispersion and utter subversion by the same; but their hopes were thus far prevented though with great care and labor, we were left to struggle with the payment of the money.”
Under these impressions I think it will be well for you to omit the insertion of the remarks above mentioned on Mr. Cushman’s discourse. That discourse is a precious relic of ancient times, the sound sense, good advice, and pious spirit, which it manifests, will, it may be hoped, now, and in all future time, meet with approval and beneficial acceptance in our community.
The information contained in the note of your correspondent respecting Mr. Cushman’s embarcation, and the assignment of land made to him in the colony, is believed to be correct.
Respectfully Your Ob’t. Servant,
To Charles Ewer, Esq.

To his loving Friends the Adventurers for New-England.
With all Well-Willers, and Well-wishers thereunto, Grace and Peace, &c.

New-England, so called, not only (to avoid novelties) because Captain Smith hath so entitled it in his Description, but because of the resemblance that is in it, of England the native soil of Englishmen; it being much what the same for heat and cold in Summer and Winter, it being champaign ground, but no high mountains, somewhat like the soil in Kent and Essex; full of dales, and meadow ground, full of rivers and sweet springs, as England is. But principally, so far as we can yet find, it is an island, and near about the quantity of England, being cut out from the main land in America, as England is from the main of Europe, by a great arm of the sea, which entereth in forty degrees, and runneth up North West and by West, and goeth out either into the South-Sea, or else into the Bay of Canada. The certainty whereof, and secrets of which, we have not yet so found as that as eye-witnesses we can make narration thereof, but if God give time and means, we shall, ere long, discover both the extent of that river, together with the secrets thereof; and so try what territories, habitations, or commodities, may be found, either in it, or about it.
It pertaineth not to my purpose to speak any thing either in praise, or dispraise of the country; so it is by God’s Providence, that a few of us are there planted to our content, and have with great charge and difficulty attained quiet and competent dwellings there. And thus much I will say for the satisfaction of such as have any thought of going hither to inhabit? That for men which have a large heart, and look after great riches, ease, pleasures, dainties, and jollity in this world (except they will live by other men’s sweat, or have great riches) I would not advise them to come there, for as yet the country will afford no such matters: But if there be any who are content to lay out their estates, spend their time, labors, and endeavors, for the benefit of them that shall come after, and in desire to further the gospel among those poor heathens, quietly contenting themselves with such hardship and difficulties, as by God’s Providence shall fall upon them, being yet young, and in their strength, such men I would advise and encourage to go, for their ends cannot fail them.
And if it should please God to punish his people in the Christian countries of Europe, (for their coldness, carnality, wanton abuse of the Gospel, contention, &c.) either by Turkish slavery, or by popish tyranny which God forbid, yet if the time be come, or shall come (as who knoweth) when Satan shall be let loose to cast out his floods against them, (Rev. 12. 14. 15.) here is a way opened for such as have wings to fly into this wilderness; and as by the dispersion of the Jewish church through persecution, the Lord brought in the fulness of the Gentiles, (Act. 11. 20, 21.) so who knoweth, whether now by tyranny and affliction, he suffereth to come upon them, he will not by little and little chase them even amongst the heathens, that so a light may rise up in the dark, (Luke 2. 32.) and the kingdom of Heaven be taken from them which now have it, and given to a people that shall bring forth the fruit of it. (Mat. 21. 43.) This I leave to the judgment of the godly wise, being neither prophet nor son of a prophet, (Amos 7. 14.) but considering God’s dealing of old, (2 Kings 17, 23.) and seeing the name of Christian to be very great, but the true nature thereof almost quite lost in all degrees and sects, I cannot think but that there is some judgment not far off, and that God will shortly, even of stones, raise up children unto Abraham. (Mat. 3. 5.)
And who so rightly considereth what manner of entrance, abiding, and proceedings, we have had among these poor heathens since we came hither, will easily think, that God has some great work to do towards them.
They were wont to be the most cruel and treacherous people in all these parts, even like lions, but to us they have been like lambs, so kind, so submissive, and trusty, as a man may truly say, many christians are not so kind, nor sincere.
They were very much wasted of late, by reason of a great mortality that fell amongst them three years since, which together with their own civil dissentions and bloody wars, hath so wasted them, as I think the twentieth person is scarce left alive, and those that are left, have their courage much abated, and their countenance is dejected, and they seem as a people affrighted. And though when we came first into the Country, we were few, and many of us were sick, and many died by reason of the cold and wet, it being the depth of winter, and we having no houses, nor shelter, yet when there was not six able persons among us, and that they came daily to us by hundreds, with their sachems or kings, and might in one hour have made a dispatch of us, yet such a fear was upon them, as that they never offered us the least injury in word or deed. And by reason of one Tisquanto, that lives amongst us, that can speak English, we have daily commerce with their kings, and can know what is done or intended towards us among the savages; also we can acquaint them with our courses and purposes, both human and religious. And the greatest commander of the country, called Massasoit, cometh often to visit us, tho’ he lives 50 miles from us, often sends us presents, he having with many other of their governors, promised, yea, subscribed obedience to our sovereign Lord King James, and for his cause to spend both strength and life. And we for our parts, through God’s grace, have with that equity, justice, and compassion, carried ourselves towards them, as that they have received much favor, help, and aid from us, but never the least injury or wrong by us. [A] We found the place where we live empty, the people being all dead and gone away, and none living near by 8 or 10 miles; and though in the time of some hardship we found (travelling abroad) near 8 bushels of corn hid up in a cave, and knew no owners of it, yet afterwards hearing of the owners of it, we gave them (in their estimation) double the value of it. Our care hath been to maintain peace amongst them, and have always set ourselves against such of them as used any rebellion, or treachery against their governors, and not only threatened such, but in some sort paid them their due deserts; and when any of them are in want, as often they are in the winter, when their corn is done, we supply them to our power, and have them in our houses eating and drinking, and warming themselves, which thing (though it be something a trouble to us) yet because they should see and take knowledge of our labors, order and diligence, both for this life and a better, we are content to bear it, and we find in many of them, especially, of the younger sort, such a tractable disposition, both to religion and humanity, as that if we had means to apparel them, and wholly to retain them with us (as their desire is) they would doubtless in time prove serviceable to God and man, and if ever God send us means we will bring up hundreds of their children, both to labor and learning.
But leaving to speak of them till a further occasion be offered; if any shall marvel at the publishing of this treatise in England, seeing there is no want of good books, but rather want of men to use good books, let them know, that the especial end is, that we may keep those motives in memory for ourselves, and those that shall come after, to be a remedy against self love the bane of all societies. And that we also might testify to our Christian countrymen, who judge diversly of us, that though we be in a heathen country, yet the grace of Christ is not quenched in us, but we still hold and teach the same points of faith, mortification, and sanctification, which we have heard and learned, in a most ample and large manner in our own country. If any shall think it too rude and unlearned for this curious age, let them know, that to paint out the Gospel in plain and flat English, amongst a company of plain Englishmen (as we are) is the best and most profitablest teaching; and we will study plainness, not curiosity, neither in things human, nor heavenly. If any error or unsoundness be in it, (as who knoweth) impute it to that frail man which endited it, which professeth to know nothing as he ought to know it. I have not set down my name, partly because I seek no name, and principally, because I would have nothing esteemed by names, for I see a number of evils to arise through names, when the persons are either famous, or infamous, and God and man is often injured; if any good or profit arise to thee in the receiving of it, give God the praise and esteem me as a son of Adam, subject to all such frailties as other men are.
And you my loving friends the adventurers to this plantation; as your care has been, first to settle religion here, before either profit or popularity, so I pray you, go on, to do it much more, and be careful to send godly men, though they want some of that worldly policy which this world hath in her own generation, and so though you lose, the Lord shall gain. I rejoice greatly in your free and ready minds to your powers, yea, and beyond your powers to further this work, that you thus honor God with your riches, and I trust you shall be repayed again double and treble in this world, yea, and the memory of this action sh

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The Sin and Danger of Self-Love / Described by a Sermon Preached At Plymouth, in New-England, 1621
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