|(America's Biblical Beginnings) On These Shores - Mary Anne Hardiman|
September 24, 2011
On These Shores
by Mary Anne Hardiman
"I will teach you hidden lessons from our past-
stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation about
the glorious deeds of the Lord,
about his power and his mighty wonders."
~ Psalm 78:2-4 NLT
In his eighth annual address as President, George Washington said, "A primary object . . . should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing . . . than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?"
As a nation, great efforts have been taken to preserve our early writings. A wealth of information is available if you will look for it. Many books have been written about the lives and events surrounding the birth of our nation. However, with the passing of years, events have been fabricated and the truth has been distorted. When reading original documents, in the Founders' own words, and accounts written by those who knew the Founders, we acquire a different perspective. Astonishingly, what unfolds is the hand of God guiding brave men and women, resolute to leave behind the former things and start a new life.
In the past few years, several political leaders have stated that America is not a Christian nation. Is this true? Was America ever a Christian nation?
Let's examine some facts.
After much prayer, the group determined they would sail to America to start a new life. William Bradford, the man who served as governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts for thirty-three years wrote, "It was answered that all great and honourable actions are accompanied by great difficulties and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted the dangers were great but not desperate, the difficulties were many but not invincible . . . And all of them through the help of God by fortitude and patience might be borne or overcome" (Bradford's History of Pilmoth Plantation, by William Bradford, Project Gutenberg, Online Book Catalog pg 35.).
On their voyage, a storm blew the Mayflower off course. On December 6, 1620, instead of landing in the British colony of Virginia, they found themselves off of the New England coast. Their original contract had been under the jurisdiction of the Virginia land company. After arriving in New England, that contract was null and void. Realizing that no one had the power to command them, they wrote a new government contract for all of the men to follow.
The Mayflower Compact begins with these words: "In (the) name of God, Amen . . . having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancemente of (the) Christian faith,and honor of our king and countrie . . .in (the) presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves togeather into a civil body politick...." (Bradford p. 111)
For the first time in history, free and equal men voluntarily agreed in written terms to create a new civil government. They promised to submit to and obey the covenant confirming the decision with their signatures.
What is remarkable about the Plymouth landing was that if the Mayflower had landed at Plymouth three years earlier, the Pilgrims would have been met by a fierce Indian tribe, the Patuxet Indians, known for their hostility to white men. The tribe previously had massacred an entire company of Frenchmen. However, mysteriously the Patuxets were destroyed by a plague in 1617. Nearby Indian tribes stayed clear of that site, fearing the same devastation would happen to them. When the Pilgrims came to the area, the land was vacant and already cleared.
During the first spring of 1621, the Pilgrims met a Native American named Squanto who arrived at their site. He spoke English and was able to communicate for the Pilgrims in their dealings with the Indians. Squanto taught the settlers how to plant corn, farm, and hunt beaver. This was vital for their survival. He also helped the Pilgrims form a peace treaty with surrounding Indians which lasted 50 years.
Squanto's own story is reminiscent of biblical times. Squanto was captured in 1614, taken to Spain, and rescued by Spanish monks who introduced him to Christianity. In 1619, he returned to New England only to discover that a plague had wiped out his entire tribe. He was the only survivor of the Patuxets! In the exact location where his own tribe was destroyed, Squanto was now instrumental in the survival of the Pilgrims.
That first summer the Pilgrims' harvest was plentiful and they celebrated with thanksgiving to God. The Pilgrims invited a local tribe (The Wampanoag) to join their feast acknowledging God's goodness for His provision. Chief Massasoit and ninety Indians arrived. For three days the Pilgrims and Indians entertained and feasted. This was the first Thanksgiving (Mourt's Relation: A Journey of the Pilgrims at Plymouth by Edward Winslow, 1622, Part VI).
Two years later, Governor Bradford issued an official proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving for all to assemble to give thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.
As more settlers came to the new world, the colonies were established by religious groups seeking freedom. Ten years after the Pilgrims arrived, the Puritans landed in Massachusetts. One thousand Puritans broke off from the Church of England to seek religious liberties in New England. John Winthrop, their leader, spoke of their desire to be a "city upon a hill" and that "the eyes of all people are upon us".
Other colonies were established for religious freedom:
New Jersey became a colony in 1664. It was established by English Quakers, Puritans, and religious dissenters from Scotland. The Anabaptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers provided strong Christian teaching. The motto on the provincial NJ seal proclaimed, "Righteousness exalts a nation." Later this was changed in 1777 to say, "Liberty and Prosperity."
The Virginia charter of 1609, declared that those living in the jurisdiction of Virginia "shall determine to live together in the fear and true worship of Almighty God, Christian peace, and civil quietness;" and that, "the principle affect which we [the crown] can desire or expect of this action is the conversion...unto the true worship of God and the Christian religion" (Morris, Benjamin Franklin. Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States. Philadelphia, 1864, Google Books, p. 93).
In North Carolina, Quakers and others seeking religious freedoms settled there in 1653. Ten years later their charter stated, "a pious zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith, and the enlargement of our empire and dominions...in the parts of America not yet cultivated or planted . . . for those who have no knowledge of Almighty God" (Charter of Carolina, March 24, 1663). The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians greatly influenced the political and religious scene of North Carolina.
Maryland began to be settled in 1632 under the charge of Lord Baltimore. "His object was to people a territory with colonists of his own religious faith and to erect an asylum in North America for the Catholic religion." In 1650, a largely Roman Catholic Assembly passed an "Act Concerning Religion." This act stated that "no person professing to believe in Jesus Christ should be molested on account of their faith, or denied the free exercise of their particular modes of worship." Chief Justice Story said, it was the first example of a "legislator inviting his subjects to the free indulgence of religious opinion" (Morris, p. 95).
General James Oglethorpe established Georgia in 1732 for the relief of the poor who had been imprisoned for debt. It was announced that "rights of citizenship would be extended to all Protestant emigrants from any nation in Europe desirous of refuge from persecution. The Moravians were invited to emigrate to the colony of Georgia and arrived in 1736. Their object was to Christianize and convert and aid in the planting of institutions in the New World on the basis of Christianity" (Morris, p. 102). John and Charles Wesley helped Oglethorpe in his efforts to spread the Christian faith as did George Whitefield.
In South Carolina, the great Christian philosopher John Locke drew up the Fundamental Constitution of Carolina. In this charter he declared that Christianity had "God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter." (Morris, p. 96) French Huguenots formed an important part of the colony of South Carolina.
In New Hampshire, settlers agreed at Exeter, "in the name of Christ and in the sight of God...to set up among us such Government as shall be . . . agreeable to the Will of God . . . by the Grace and Help of Christ and in His Name and fear to submit ourselves to such Godly and Christian Lawes . . . that we may live quietly and peaceably together in all godliness and honesty" (Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire, 1639).
In the settlement of Pennsylvania, William Penn obtained a grant in 1682 from the king. He purposed to establish a government on "the basis of the Bible and to administer it in the fear of the Lord." the preamble of the first legislative act stated, "that all persons living in this province who confess and acknowledge the one almighty and eternal God...shall in no wise be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion or practice in matters of faith and worship" (Morris, pg. 83).
In 1623, Dutch merchants had established trading posts in New Netherlands (New York). Efforts were made to also establish a Christian settlement. The first settlers were those who fled religious persecution in Europe. The early settlements of the Dutch combined both churches and schools to preserve the blessings of education and religion. Pastor Jonas Michaellus of the Dutch Reformed church of New York wrote in a letter dated 1628, "We must have no other object than the glory of God in building up His kingdom and the salvation of many souls" (Morris, pg. 86).
King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden sent out two ships to settle a new colony in the New World called New Sweden, eventually Delaware. He wanted to aid in the Christian settlement of America. Its object though "in part commercial was declared to be for the benefit of the whole Protestant world" (Morris, pg. 92).
Roger Williams came to the Bay colony in 1631 from England. His ideas on liberty put him in conflict with the leaders and he was banished from the Massachusetts colony. In 1636, he purchased land from the Indians in Rhode Island and called the town Providence. He wrote after the purchase of this land that "this was in a sense of God's merciful providence unto me in my distress." Those who had been persecuted for their religious beliefs also started to settle in the colony. The Royal Charter of Rhode Island of 1663 declared that "the civil state may stand and best be maintained . . . with a full liberty in religious concernments . . . rightly grounded upon Gospel principles" (Beliles, Mark A. and McDowell, Stephen K. America's Providential History pg. 87).
The Rev. Thomas Hooker migrated from Massachusetts in 1636 and brought his entire Puritan congregation with him to the Connecticut Valley. In 1637, another Puritan minister, John Davenport moved his congregation to New Haven. In 1639, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut written by Thomas Hooker were adopted as the Constitution of Connecticut. This document would later have a huge influence on our nation (Morris, p 77).
In the early 1800s, British Parliament member, Lord Brougham said, "The first settlers of all the colonies were men of irreproachable character. Many of them fled from persecution; others on account of honorable poverty; and all of them with their expectations limited to the prospect of a bare subsistence in freedom and peace. All idea of wealth or pleasure was out of the question. The greater part of them viewed their emigration as a taking up the cross, and bounded their hopes of riches to the gifts of the Spirit, and their ambition to the desire of a kingdom beyond the grave. A set of men more conscientious in their doings or simpler in their manners, never founded an empire. It is indeed the peculiar glory of North America that, with very few exceptions, its empire was founded in charity and peace." (Morris, pg. 105).
Clearly, the colonies were established
for the furtherance of the gospel
and the foundation was Judeo-Christian.
There were other motives which drew men
to these shores,
but religious freedom was a bright light
beckoning multitudes to America.