From my years young in days of youth,
God did make known to me his truth,
And call’d me from my native place
For to enjoy the means of grace.
In wilderness he did me guide,
And in strange lands for me provide.
In fears and wants, through weal and woe,
A pilgrim, past I to and fro.
There have been many times in our country’s history in which our spiritual forefathers have left a lasting legacy. Our heritage has been a rich one. Thanksgiving marks a day in which we cannot fail to remember that it is God who gives the rich blessings we may currently enjoy.
Though proclaimed a federal holiday by both Washington and Lincoln, it is the fifty-three legendary men, women, and children to whom we are indebted for this great feast day called Thanksgiving.
In 1620 the pilgrims brought to this continent a Christianity sound in doctrine and which would become the foundation of free and peaceful religious worship and the establishment of a sound government. Their vision for the future was not for themselves but for generations still to come.
“…Lastly, (and which was not least,) a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work…” -Governor William Bradford’s Of Plymoth Plantation
The Pilgrims were a people whose desire it was to live wholeheartedly and deliberately according to Scripture. They were willing even to lay down their very lives, if necessary, in order to press forth the crown rights of Christ, establish a nation on the foundation of God’s Word, and bring the light of the Gospel into the darkness.
Much like the pilgrims we face a fundamental war for our culture. The question of our day is still, “Who is sovereign, God or man?” All around us we see humanism establishing itself at a determined pace. The progressiveness of our culture has left many of us numb and dumb-founded as to what we might do to regain a foot hold again.
The answer is the same for us as it was for our founding families. As Christians, our duty is to self-consciously live according to the Scriptures and thereby declare to the world that King Jesus still reigns. Anything done in faith and accordance with God’s Word, be it great or small, contends with the antagonism the Pilgrims risked all to leave behind and which we still face today.
This Thanksgiving we need to ask ourselves, “Is praying over our meal enough?” “Are we giving sufficient thanks to God to whom we are deeply indebted?” “Are our lives marked by faithfulness in every area?” “Are our families, with equal courage, daily building on the the rich inheritance so dearly purchased with the lives of over half of the pilgrims who originally set out for untamed worlds?”
Or has Thanksgiving for us regressed into a day of mindless escape from our fears and the knowledge that our culture has declined so very rapidly from what it once was intended to be by our founding families? Do we have the same pilgrim zeal to be a light darkness for America as it is today? Can we encourage each other toward a future which will bear the fruit of a still worthy cause? Is it such a far fetched idea that America could once again be a great nation?
To begin, we need to revisit the mindset of our pilgrim forefathers and bolster our families with the same hearty courage. We have a determined place. We have a determined cause. This thanksgiving is a great opportunity to share with our children the Pilgrim hope for their futures with as much determination and hope in God. More from William Bradford’s journal:
The place they fixed their thoughts upon was somewhere in those vast and unpeopled countries of America, which were fruitful and fit for habitation, though devoid of all civilized inhabitants and given over to savages, who range up and down, differing little from the wild beasts themselves. This proposition when made public, found many different opinions, and raised many different fears and doubts. The hopeful ones tried to encourage the rest to undertake it; others more timid, objected to it, alleging much that was neither reasonable nor improbable. They argued that it was so big an undertaking that it was open to inconceivable perils and dangers. Besides the casualties of the seas, they asserted that the length of the voyage was such that the women, and other weak persons worn out with age and travail, could never survive it. Even if they should, they contended that the miseries which they would be exposed to in such a country, would be too hard to endure. They would be liable to famine, nakedness, and want. The change of air, diet, and water would infect them with sickness and disease. Again, all those who surmounted these difficulties, would remain in continual danger from the savages, who are cruel, barbarous, and treacherous, furious in their rage, and merciless when they get the upper hand,–not intent to kill, they delight in tormenting people in the most bloody manner possible; flaying some alive with the shells of fishes, cutting off the members and joints of others piecemeal, broiling them on the coals, and eating collops of their flesh in their sight whilst the live,– with other cruelties to horrible to be related. And the very hearing of these things could not but move the very bowels of men to grate within them and make the weak to quake and tremble. It was further objected that it would require greater sums of money to prepare for such a voyage, and to fit them with necessaries, than their diminished estates would amount to. Many precedents of ill success and lamentable miseries befallen others in similar undertakings were alleged,– besides their own experience in their removal to Holland, and how hard it was for them to live there, though it was a neighboring country and a civilized and rich commonwealth.
It was replied that all great and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both met and overcome with answerable courage. It was granted the dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many but not invincible. For, many of the things feared might never befall; others by provident care and the use of good means might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome. True it was that such attempts were not to be undertaken without good ground and reason, rashly or lightly; or as, many had done, for curiosity or hope of gain. But their condition was not ordinary; their ends were good and honorable; their calling, lawful and urgent; therefore they might expect the blessings of God on their proceedings. Yea, though they should lose their lives in this action, yet might they have the comfort of knowing that their endeavor was worthy.
And to testify to the character and sacrifice of our founders….the last of their motivations for the endeavor written in a letter to a friend and fellow christian.
“Lastly, we are not like some whom small things discourage, or small discontents cause to wish themselves at home again. We know what we can expect both in England and in Holland, and that we shall not improve our material well-being by our departure; whereas, should we be forced to return, we could not hope to regain out present position, either here or elsewhere during our lives, which are now drawing toward their periods.
These motives we have been hold to put to you, and, as you think well, to any other of out friends of the Council. We will not be further troublesome, but with our humble duties to your Worship, and to any other of our well-willers of the Council, we take our leave, committing you to the guidance of the Almighty.”
Yours much bounden in all duty.