PLYMOUTH ROCK:

A FIRM FOUNDATION


When the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock,

Christians laid the foundations for a republic

that would endure through the centuries!


W HEN AMERICANS LOOK BACK TO THEIR BEGINNINGS, THEY USUALLY point to the little band of sea weary pioneers that landed in 1620 at Plymouth Rock. Of the more than one hundred Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, the majority were devout Christians. They were Separatists bent on shaking the Church of England and building a new life in an unknown wilderness, where they could worship the lord in the way they believed the Scriptures taught.


The Pilgrims: Law And Order For A New Land.


It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. Upon raising the beam, they “committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.”


The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as “a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea,” which was true of Cape Cod at that time. But they had no patent to sanction their going ashore at Cape Cod, for their charter had been issued for the Virginia Colony still to the south. This was “no man’s land.”


The ship moved out into the deep water again while her occupants pondered what to do. Their decision: the Mayflower Compact. It was intended only as a temporary pact to keep the law and order among themselves in a wilderness where there was no law. Yet that historic agreement laid the foundations of law and order and estab-lished the first “civil body politic” in America.


Al the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and that law without a moral base is really no law at all. The compact also rested on a “covenant” agreement and this too would later help lay the foundations of the American republic. All law, they insisted, would rest not upon a monarchy or a dictatorship, but upon “the consent of the governed.” It was a revolutionary concept for its time.


This is why, today, the inscription on the Plymouth Rock monument reads:

                    They laid the foundation of a state wherein

                     every man through countless ages should

                     have liberty.


The day the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, according to their own historian, William Bradford, “they came to an anchor in the Bay, which is a good harbor..... compassed about to the very sea with pines, juniper, sassafras and all other sweet wood......”. And there, said Bradford, recounting the event several years later, they “blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the fast and furious ocean...... and a sea of troubles before. ‘let them, therefore, praise the Lord, because He is good and His mercies endure forever.’ “ (Scripture quoted from the Geneva Bible used by the Pilgrims.)


The Puritans: Moral and Academic Education for a New People.


While the Pilgrims carved out their own niche in American history, they were a tiny lot alongside the swarm of Puritans who crossed the ocean and settled along the shores of Massachusetts Bay in the 17th Century.


Like the Pilgrims, the Puritans stood at odds with the Church of England and its hierarchy. In their eyes the Reformation in Europe had not gone far enough. But unlike the Pilgrims, who were strong separatists, they were not yet ready to “pull out.” Instead, they wanted to continue the reformation from within and strive for a “pure” church. The wild American continent gave them a chance to escape the corruptions they saw in their own church-state homeland.


John White of Dorchester started the movement to America. He set out to establish a commercial fishing company and, at the same time, to minister to the English fishermen who were beginning to work the New England waters. The company failed, but White promptly saw the opportunity for Christians to establish a colony on new soil where they could model society along biblical lines.


In 1629 England’s King Charles granted the Puritans a charter for the Massachusetts Bay Company. Since the goal was religious, and no longer a business venture, why did he allow it?


Some have suggested that the king was more than glad to send some of his sharpest critics three thousand miles across the ocean! Whatever the case, again the divine hand of Providence seemed to be molding America.


By little more than a decade later, some 20,000 colonists had made their way across the Atlantic to New England. Many of these were not Puritans. In fact, perhaps less than one-fifth even professed to be Christians.


But it was the Puritan Christians who established the government, built the schools, administered the churches and set the moral tone.


Puritan New England strongly helped shape the foundations of the nation to come. Men like John Cotton and Increase Mather preached forcefully from her pulpits.


What the early Puritans gave American culture, says one observer, amounts to much more than the “blue laws” and the religious discipline which critics like to caricature.


The Puritans established education in the New England colonies. They gave us a thoroughgoing respect for learning, our first books, our first college, and the habit of representative government.



Plymouth Rock





SOURCE:

THE REBIRTH OF AMERICA

(Pgs. 27-29)



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