Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and hope this blog will help with that. I am not an expert and I consider most of my research as a work in progress. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My Mayflower Ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Robert Cushman and The Cry of a Stone

I recently read The Cry of a Stone, the book written by my 12th great grandfather Robert Cushman (as Robert Coachman). It is a terrific resource for anyone interested in the Pilgrims' Separatist religion. Cushman, who was not formally educated, wrote this eloquent book in the 1619; it was published posthumously in 1645. Thanks to editor Michael Paulick, translator/annotator James Baker and publisher the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, the book was reprinted this year. What a gift to genealogists!

I've always been in awe of the Separatists' willingness to put themselves in harms way by practicing their beliefs in England but my knowledge of exactly what they believed was limited. Reading The Cry of the Stone filled in a lot of blanks.

What struck me the most in reading the book was how extensive Cushman's knowledge was of the Bible and also of other religions. I expected his book to be all fire and brimstone and a bit holier than thou in tone but I found instead that he rationally explained what the Separatists believed and why.

Some of the things I found most interesting:
  • Church members were expected to do whatever it took, even sell property, to support poorer brethren and do so without murmurings, complaints or outcries. The life of a Christian was more precious than anything.
  • There was a role for widows in the church as they could become Deaconesses, tending to the sick, poor and working as midwives. Widows "have age upon them as a crown of glory." In many cultures widows are treated quite shabbily, so I found this refreshing.
  • They believed the Church of England admitted sinners and saints alike and had strayed from teachings of the Bible and Christ. The Separatists were all Saints. God had already chosen who would be saved or damned on the day of judgment. Didn't believe reforming the Church of England was the answer because an evil man would still be evil.
  • Separatists only believed in two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. They believed the rest were inventions of man and had no scriptural basis. 
  • They rejected the Book of Common Prayer, instead believing prayer should be unscripted and spontaneous. Prayer or inspired preaching from the heart was the proper way to honor God.
  • They rejected Church hierarchy. Their church was based on five officers: pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, deaconess.  The actual church building was unimportant--it was kept plain and free of idols. They believed anyone with talent or gift of God may be allowed to preach. They were motivated to preach anywhere as as there were unrecognized potential converts scattered throughout the world.
  • Cushman was particularly concerned by the difficulties that selfishness or self love, laziness and lack of charity posed to the survival of the Plymouth community; this was the subject of his first published sermon given at Plymouth. 
It took me some time to read the slender volume as it isn't exactly an easy read, although Mr. Baker's descriptive notes were most appreciated. I purchased the book from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

I wrote a sketch on Robert Cushman in another blog entry which you can view here.

8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Wow, this is something I hadn't heard of! I will get a copy, how fascinating! Thanks for sharing your insights in this blog entry. Appreciate your work, as always.

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    1. Thanks, Katharine. I'm sure you will really enjoy it! Chris

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  3. Hi Chris - Thank you for your informative blog posts. We were just with Jim Baker and "The Cry of a Stone" at the Alden Kindred Reunion - great to get a synopsis! I read "Yonder Sails the Mayflower" about 20 years ago which is all about Robert Cushman in novel form, so it's good to discover who he really was. This book is a great contribution to understanding what motivated the Separatists.
    In an earlier blog post you mentioned:
    "Also in 1622 he published an eloquent vindication of the colonial enterprise and an appeal for missions to the North American Indians." Is this available somewhere?

    We have several book/film projects on The First Fifty Years of Peace and Friendship at Plymouth Plantation between the Pilgrims and the Indians which we are alleging gave birth to American democracy and the American mind and spirit. Please see our website for more information. www.First50Years.us.

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    1. Connie, How wonderful it must have been to meet Jim Baker. I'll have to find a copy of Yonder Sails the Mayflower. I have only seen the 1622 paper reference and never a transcription. If I find it, I'll let you know. Thanks also for posting The First Fifty Years link. Chris

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    2. Thanks to Michael Paulick who sent this link to the digitized version of Mourt's Relation that has the information Connie is seeking:
      Chapter XVI
      REASONS AND CONSIDERATIONS TOUCHING THE LAWFULNESS OF REMOVING OUT OF ENGLAND UNTO
      THE PARTS OF AMERICA – From Mourt’s Relations.
      Pages 239 to 251

      Free book that may be downloaded at:

      https://ia800203.us.archive.org/14/items/chroniclesofpilg00younuoft/chroniclesofpilg00younuoft.pdf


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  4. My mother member of the daughters of the revolution, my 12th granddad Robert Cushman 🐰 Granddad Robert Cushman I named after his son Thomas.

    Thx

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    1. How wonderful for a name to be carried forward in a family for so long! Chris

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