America's Christian Heritage - The Pilgrim Years
by Alliance for Life Ministries

Christopher Columbus believed himself to be a man chosen for a divine mission. On August 3, 1492, under the auspices of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Columbus set sail from Palos with a small fleet of ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina. His journeys took him to portions of Central America, that would later become known as the Americas.

In a letter to the king and queen of Spain, Columbus expressed his reasons for sailing westward over 500 years ago. "The Holy Trinity moved Your Highnesses to this enterprise of the Indies, and of his infinite he made me the messenger thereof . . . as being the most exalted of Christian princes and so ardently devoted to the faith and to its increase. On this matter I spent six or seven years of deep anxiety, expounding . . . how great service might in this be rendered to the Lord . . . And I told you of the peoples whom I have seen, among whom and from whom many souls may be saved."

The following quotation from the Introduction to Christopher Columbus' Book of Prophecies summarizes not only his deep commitment to the gospel mandate, but also points to the Bible as the very source of his inspiration: "It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies . . ." There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit . . . Our Lord Jesus Christ desired to perform a very obvious miracle in the voyage to the Indies, to confront me and the whole people of God."

Hernando De Soto, discoverer of Florida in 1539, wrote to the Justice and Board of Magistrates of Santiago, Cuba, "Glory to God, who has directed all, through His bounteous goodness, in such a way, that He appears to have this enterprise altogether under His special care, that it should be for His service."

Colonists came from many lands and arrived during many different times to build our new nation. In 1607, Jamestown, Virginia, became the first permanent English settlement in America. The "Jamestown Settlement" consisted of about 100 men that had been sent out by a group of London merchants known as the London Company. These men came to America in search of treasure, to raise farm products that England could not grow at home, and to spread the Christian faith among the Indians.

The First Charter of Virginia " the cradle of the Republic" provides us with the true identity of the Jamestown settlers. "We greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their desires for the furtherance of so noble a work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such people."

Captain John Smith, leader of the Christian expedition, gave the following bold testimony: "Please to know that I worship only one God and serve but one King."

In the earliest years of the settlement, nine out of every ten colonists died. Yet, more colonists arrived from England, including John Rolfe, a hardworking man whose Christian faith was very important to him. He believed there was a Christian purpose to Jamestown. His marriage to, and the Christian conversion of Pocahontas,

the daughter of an Indian chief, was responsible for a temporary peace between the settlers and the Indians.

While the Jamestown settlement was struggling to exist, a group in England referred to as "Separatists" were planning to re-locate their church. We know them today as Pilgrims. Pilgrims means that they were wanderers – wanders across the earth. In the little town of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, in 1608, John Robinson and his congregation withdrew from the oppressive Church of England and moved to Holland. The Pilgrims believed the Church of England was so worldly and corrupt that they had to separate from it and establish their own church, one which was true to biblical principles. It was in Holland that Robinson formed his marvelous congregation into what would be the founding fathers and mothers of this country.

After twelve years in Holland, things began to happen that made the people realize they had to move on again. The Dutch people at that time were very worldly and there was a great deal of impiety and ungodliness among them. The Sabbath was grossly profaned. The Pilgrims decided they would move their church to a new land and establish a place where they could worship and live according to the teachings of Scripture.

The decision was made to go to North America, which had been claimed by the British for over a generation. It was determined they would go in two ships – the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Their ruling elder, William Brewster, headed the first group, while Robinson was to govern the second. Before they set sail, their governor, William Bradford, described their motives for coming. He said they had ". . . a great hope and inward zeal . . .of laying some good foundation . . . for the propagating and advancing of the Gospel of the Kingdom." Inside the rotunda of our nations capitol is a painting of the Pilgrims about to embark from Holland. The ship chaplain, Brewster, has the Bible laying open on his lap. Very clear are the words, "The New Testament according to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." On the sail is the motto of the Pilgrims, "In God We Trust. God With Us."

Finally the Pilgrims left Plymouth and after 66 days journey through the fierce and vast wilderness of the sea, they made it to Cape Cod in late December of 1620. Before setting foot upon the rocky coast, they met in the captain's cabin and drew up the first contract of government, America's "birth certificate," the Mayflower Compact. Its purpose was to establish a "Holy Commonwealth" in which only believers in Jesus Christ were fully part of the community. It begins with these words:

"In the name of God, Amen." And it continues, ". . . Having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith . . . a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia . . ."

It was by blending the covenants of the church and government, and allowing only church members the privilege of voting and holding public office, that the Holly Commonwealth was established and maintained. The Mayflower compact, based on the pattern of biblical covenant, is recognized by scholars as the founding document that led to a whole series of covenants, compacts and constitutions culminating in the United States constitution framed in 1787.

It was only a few years later, that one of our first missionaries, John Eliot, set out into the wilderness to take the gospel to the American Indians in their own language. Many more would follow until more missionaries have gone out from America than from any other nation in history. And so the Pilgrims' desire has come to pass.

When the New England settlements finally gathered together, they formed their bond in what is known as the New England Confederation. They said in that document: "Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Other great Christian men that played a significant role in forming our country include, Thomas Hooker, founder of Connecticut, William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and church builder Robert Carter.

The documentary evidence of the Christian origin of this country is voluminous; it would take hours even to quote it. It was thoroughly studied by the Supreme Court of the United States, and in 1892 they gave us what is known as the Trinity Decision. In that, the Supreme Court of the United States declared: These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

That is where this nation began; that is the place from which we came.

The country in which we live is simply the result of a very successful church relocation project!

For more information regarding Americas Christian Heritage, please click to Part Two, "The Revolution and Beyond."

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