Four Hundred years ago, today, November 11, 1620, a tiny sailing vessel dropped anchor just off Cape Cod. On that vessel was precious cargo, more costly than any other. . . . the very seed of a new nation! Actually, it was more than a seed. It was the first fruits of a harvest offered up to God, a harvest of individual Christian self-government and solid Christian character, forged through suffering and persecution, through perseverance and faithfulness. And the offering of first fruits sanctifies all the rest, setting it apart to God for His glory, honor, and use to further His purpose.
This sailing vessel was, of course, the Mayflower, carrying 102 passengers, with 28 of the adults being members of the Pilgrim congregation from Leiden, Holland. They came as families, and as a church. Onboard were also non-Christians who outnumbered the Pilgrims and took every opportunity to ridicule and taunt them when they sang their praises to God and laughed at them when they were seasick.
The voyage which should have been a three-week journey of 21 days became a 66-day storm-tossed endurance contest between these Pilgrims and the wintry Atlantic Ocean. It was literally a pitched battle between the forces of good and evil. The captain offered to turn around numerous times, but these Pilgrims refused. They knew in Whom they believed, that He was with them, and that He would see them through to the other side! They would not give up!
The significance of the Mayflower with its precious cargo should be known and revered by every American boy and girl, man and woman, and should be handed down from one generation to the next as a treasured testimony to God and to those stalwart Believers.
As soon as they dropped anchor in the frigid waters of Cape Cod, the most pressing need was for a means to govern themselves. The “strangers” on board were already threatening to mutiny as soon as they could get rid of these Pilgrims. The charter they had was for Virginia, but they were blown hundreds of miles off course and not anyplace close to the Virginia Colony. There were no noblemen on board to assume rule over the. They were all equals, so they did what they had been doing for so many years. They used the principles from the Bible about the government of God which they had practiced in their homes, churches, and civil compacts.
They wrote the Mayflower Compact, the first document of government written in America. In it, they defined their rights as a Christian colony as originating with God, the authority being granted to the people and then delegated to government authorities such as the king — the basis from which we get such ideas as “We the People” and the “consent of the governed.”
This order of authority was a radical departure from the rest of the world, which understood authority as being invested and remaining in the Crown. The Pilgrims, however, drafted their charter in keeping with their Biblical understanding of covenant and consistent with the authority for the grant of rights as expressed in the original charters for both the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies. For most of the world, the delegation of authority was from God to the ruler and then to the people. These Pilgrims understood that authority originates in God, and is delegated from Him to the people, and from them to the rulers over them and that they were the only ones who could make laws to govern themselves, and to these laws made by them, they consented to obey.
So what does all this have to do with today? Firstly the original source documents establish that the Pilgrims were in covenant with God. That covenant has not been rescinded. Our God is a covenant-keeping God. We, on the other hand, are a covenant-breaking people. However, it is possible through the forgiveness so freely granted us in Jesus, to renew that covenant and to begin to be faithful again.
Secondly, in offering themselves as first-fruits, these Pilgrims were sanctifying all the others who would come later, and who were willing to be even as ‘stepping stones’ for so great a work. That includes us in this generation if we will but turn and be healed. If the root is holy, the branches are also. (Romans 11:16)
Thirdly, this compact set forth the idea of Christian self-government by the consent of the governed with the following words:
“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, and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc. , 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, 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 Lord King James” . . . Ano Domini 1620.
Four hundred years ago! Our Forefathers forged a covenant; our Founders laid the foundation. Christ has ever been the True Cornerstone, for it is from Him that our freedom flows.
As Ronald Reagan said on November 13, 1979, when he announced his Presidential Candidacy, “A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny.”
“The eyes of all people are upon us so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”
“For we are, indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.”
Let us not deal falsely with our God, but remember Him in all we do . . .
Let us celebrate this 400th anniversary with grateful hearts, lest we forget our God and perish.
Patricia Smith (c) 11/11/2020