Pilgrims and Providence
Author: Lisa Van Houten  
20201123
 

When did America begin?  Of course, we know that our nation was founded July 4, 1776 when we declared independence with the stirring words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …” (Or, as Joe Biden said, “endowed by, you know, the thing”).

But when did the intrinsic concept of America begin, that great experiment of “ordered liberty” as George Washington described it?  The liberal elite would have us believe that our nation really began in 1619 when the first slaves were sold in the colony of Jamestown.  Those painting a revisionist view of history claim that the stain of slavery negates the noble ideals instituted by our founding fathers, and that America was and still is inherently racist. The New York Times describes our nation as a “slavocracy” and developed this warped idea into a curriculum called the “1619 Project” which is now used in many public schools.  It’s not surprising that recent generations who’ve been taught to despise America have no regard for the freedoms they enjoy, which have been the envy of millions living under oppression. 

It’s that yearning for the freedom to live according to the dictates of their faith, which led a tiny band of Pilgrims to seek a new life in the New World 400 years ago.  And the seed that they planted sprouted into the unique ideals of liberty, equality, and self-rule that were virtually unheard of before they were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. 

I love the history of the Pilgrims which shows the providence of God explicitly woven throughout their story in countless ways.  For example, on the voyage across the Atlantic a huge beam supporting the Mayflower’s main mast cracked putting the ship in imminent danger of sinking, yet providentially, a large iron screw from William Brewster’s printing press was the only thing found that could fix it.  Or there’s God’s amazing hand in providing the English-speaking American Indian, Squanto (actually Tisquantum), who gave vital aid to the Pilgrims without which they most likely wouldn’t have survived. Plymouth Governor William Bradford wrote of Squanto that he was "a special instrument of God for their good, beyond their expectation."  As you may recall, Squanto had been captured and sold into slavery years before the Pilgrims arrived.  He was eventually sold to Spanish friars who introduced him to the Christian faith; they gave him his freedom and he made his way to England where he lived for four years before returning to Cape Cod, the year before the Pilgrims arrived.   Reminiscent of the Biblical Joseph, God had used those hardships to uniquely prepare him for the role he would play in assisting those who brought the light of the gospel and freedom to this continent.  In generations past, every school child knew of this amazing providence; now if they learn it at all, it’s only to focus on the evils white men perpetuated.

And then there’s the providence of the Mayflower blown off course and coming ashore in what is now known as Massachusetts and not Virginia as planned, which meant the Pilgrims were not under the jurisdiction of King James.  Realizing they then needed a basis for government, on November 11, 1620 they signed a covenant, the Mayflower Compact - the first constitution in history embodying the principles of equality and government by consent of the people, and which became the cornerstone of our American Republic.  That brief 200-word document states in part:  Having undertaken, for the glory of God and 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 of 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 … for the general good of the colony….

Their faith, guided by God’s Word, was central to all they did.  When a drought came in 1623, they didn't look to the government for rescue.  Instead, they sought the Lord, setting aside a day of fasting and prayer, searching their own hearts, and confessing their sin.  By nightfall, clouds gathered and rain began to fall.   As Don Pinson wrote:  “Because they believed God to be Sovereign, they trusted Him instead of their government to meet their needs and to protect them.  Because they believed Him to be Sovereign, they lived lives that were disciplined.  They believed He had placed them on this earth for His own purposes; and, because He was their Sovereign, that meant they were accountable to Him for their actions.  This caused them to stay committed to a task even when it became very difficult.”

That Christian worldview of this small group of Pilgrims led to the assertion in the Declaration of Independence that our rights to life and liberty are not granted by government, but come from God. It led to the listing of religious liberty as the first guaranteed freedom protected by our Constitution. Their Biblical faith was the bedrock for a nation that would become a beacon of liberty, a light to the world in spreading the gospel. 

As William Bradford put it, “Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.”

Today that light has dimmed within our nation.  At times it seems as if its on the verge of being extinguished.  However, the Hand of Providence who used a group of 102 Pilgrims to lay a foundation of faith and liberty is still at work today.  He still has a remnant in this nation.  May we, by the grace of God, strive to rekindle that light. 


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