Acknowledging that their purpose was to glorify God, the Pilgrims had a clear vision and staked their very lives on following it. ♦
I heard some late night comedy shows conduct “Man on the Street” interviews about Thanksgiving. Some people thought the Pilgrims landed in Hawaii, that Ronald Reagan declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, and that the first Thanksgiving was in 1942, 1642, or 1842. It’s amazing how a nation can lose sight of its history. (Answer: the Pilgrims landed off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1620. George Washington declared it a national holiday in 1789. While debatable, the first Thanksgiving was most likely between 1621 and 1623.)
It took seven weeks for 102 passengers (including 34 children) on the Mayflower to cross the ocean from England and land on the east coast. Of the passengers, only 27 men and women and 14 of their children were specifically Pilgrims, having been associated with the Separatist church in Scrooby, England. Refusing to conform to the Church of England, they sought refuge in Holland. (Is your elementary school history coming back to you?) After 12 years they became concerned that their children would no longer identify themselves as English. They considered settling in America and made arrangements with the Virginia Company to settle south of the Hudson River as part of the Virginia Charter. Fierce winds blew them off course to the north – to the shores of Cape Cod.
Since they landed outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they would be on their own. On the ship there were signs of mutiny by the non-Pilgrim hired hands and servants. The Pilgrim leadership saw that they must act quickly to prevent a mutiny. The 16 Pilgrim men wrote up a compact, now known as the Mayflower Compact, and presented it to those on board. It was agreed to by 54 of the 65 men. The compact read as follows:
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, Ireland, king, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken, for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid, and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony. Unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign King James of England…Anno Domini 1620.
Acknowledging that their purpose was to glorify God, they convenanted together to enact laws “for the general good of the colony” and promised to abide by them. The Pilgrims had a clear vision and staked their very lives on following it.
Before leaving Holland, the Pilgrims had knelt on the dock to ask God’s blessing on their voyage, and now William Bradford, Plymouth Colony’s first elected governor, recorded “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, [we] fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven.” But the new life was hard, bitter and sad. During their first winter after their landing in 1620, 47 people died including 14 of the 18 women. Only 3 families were left intact. Nevertheless these humble Christian men and women were to be the seeds of what would become the United States of America.
What should be noted, remembered and commended by this current generation is the faith, fortitude and vision of the original Pilgrims.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. – Colossians 2:6-8