By Bill Randles
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Every year about this time (Late November), I ponder our Pilgrim forbearers, who left England for Holland and eventually for the “new World” in order to worship God in freedom and perhaps create a Christian colony in an unknown land.
These people were not professional soldiers, nor were they youthful adventurers, seeking to make a fortune. They were normal people, lower to middle class and with families, despised and persecuted within their own societies.
They had everything to lose, humanly speaking, first as dissenters from the Church of England and then by leaving Holland because they feared their children were becoming worldly in the more permissive Dutch Society. They wanted a heavenly country.
So the congregation in Leiden, Holland pooled their meager resources and sent half of their number to the New World to become a beachhead for the remainder to come later. The farewell was heartbreaking, according to William Bradford’s recollection:
[W]ith mutual embraces and many tears, they took their leaves of one another,—which proved to be the last leave to many of them . . . but they knew they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted their eyes to heaven, their dearest country and quieted their spirits (Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation in Modern English, Kindle location 759-760)
They had originally chartered two boats, selling themselves into indentured servitude for seven years to pay for it, but one of those boats proved unseaworthy, so they crowded all 102 of them into a hundred-foot ship called the MayFlower, crewed by 40 men, and made the dangerous journey across the Atlantic to an unknown world.
Why couldn’t these Christians just conform to the Church of England? Why didn’t they just throw up their hands and admit defeat in stemming the tide of worldliness which they felt was swallowing up their children? After all, it would be normal for children to drift from their parent’s faith, right?
God had stirred them. These people hungered and thirsted for something far higher and purer than what their world had to offer them. They wouldn’t just settle for worldly status quo. They were Pilgrims.
Half of them died that first harsh winter. But that didn’t deter them. They buried their dead in the hope of the resurrection, and persevered in building cabins, a church, planting crops, enduring harsh weather, and sending for more likeminded Pilgrims, who would come also seeking worship, and pure and free ways to express their Christianity, in a harsh but rich new land.
Heaven was more real to these people than earth, they feared not death, having met Jesus Christ, the one who holds the Keys of death and of Hades. Having heard Him and following Him, their own world in England and in Holland had become alien to them. They could see there was no way they could make a permanent life there, not without losing their souls.
I think a lot of us have been seeing the same thing these days. We cannot live in a New Age occultic world, a homosexual world, or a Muslim world. We once lived in a Judeo Christian world, flawed yes, but somewhat livable. But it has morphed into this present perverted, corrupt, and violent world which we vex our souls over, every day and every night.
God Himself wants us to see that there is no permanent dwelling place here in the city of destruction and calls us to pilgrimage. We must forsake our Love of the World and all of the things within it. We must long for heaven and for the city whose builder and maker is God.
The Pilgrims of our American founding were wonderful and beautiful Christians to boot. They loved the Word of God, giving us some of history’s greatest Bible scholars and theologians, but in some ways, they were misguided.
America was a gift to them, but it has not ever been nor could it be a “shining city on a Hill”; it is just a resting place. Puritanism was not the replacement of Israel. America could not be the promised land.
The Pilgrims would eventually settle in, farm, prosper, open Harvard and Yale (for the training of ministers), and attain wealth and become the establishment (losing their pilgrim spirit) and eventually apostasies (New England would become the breeding ground of Unitarianism, Masonism, Mormonism, and eventually atheism in America).
The true Christian is always a pilgrim, we can never “fit in” to this world. We are always just passing through, on our way to a better country and city.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
(Used with permission)
LTRP Note: While many who came to “the new world” (America) exploited and did great harm to the native people (the Indians) (as did some Natives harm innocent pilgrims), there were also many true believers in Christ (as described in Bill Randles article above) who did not participate in the exploitation of the Indian people. True born again believers in Jesus Christ, who are indwelt with the Spirit of God, do not murder, vandalize, or abuse other human beings. As we are instructed in God’s Word:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:31)
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:35)
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)