The Pilgrim Christians came to America to be able to establish a new life for their children, free from the oppression of the Church of England and the aristocracy. They had a celebration of Thanksgiving to God for the prosperous new land He had given them.
THE PILGRIMS AND THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
Who were the Pilgrims? They were a group of Christian who wanted to have the freedom to worship God according to the teachings of the Bible. The New Testament writings of the Apostles gave them hope for a better life. Jesus, God’s Son, not only offered them a magnificent eternal life of joy and happiness in His Kingdom, but he offered them human dignity and spiritual freedom in this life. They wanted to be free from the state religion of the Church of England that dictated to them how to worship, and persecuted them if they didn’t conform. They wanted to have the gospel preached in their own language, and not Latin which was considered the holy language. They wanted the freedom to read and interpret the Bible as their spiritual intelligence understood, and not be forced to dogma of the state church of England. They were called “Separatists” before they came to America, because they wanted to separate themselves from the Church of England. They believed the state church was corrupted by false Biblical interpretations, unscriptural ceremonies, and a controlling government that did not follow the teachings of Christ. They wanted a better life for themselves and their children, and coming to the New World could offer them the God given freedoms spoken of in the Bible.
The “Separatists” thought of themselves as Christians making a pilgrimage through this life on earth. Thus, they considered themselves “Pilgrims.” They believed from the teachings of the Bible that this life was only temporary, and that there was a wonderful eternal life in God’s Kingdom waiting for them when the pilgrimage of this temporal life was over. In the meantime, they had to provide for their families, and teach them the true gospel of the Christ. They also believed that it was their duty to share the gospel with other people. They had a desire to tell the natives of the New World that God loved them and would give them eternal life. The Pilgrims did not go to America to conquer the natives or steal their land and gold. They came to cut homes and small farms out of the vast forest for their families. They came to make friends with the natives and tell them about the love of God. They even signed a peace treaty with the Indians that lasted 54 years during their life span. It was other men of evil and selfish desires who came to the New World to kill, conquer, and steal from the Indians. Unfortunately, those people were stereotyped as Christians, because they were white and from England. However, those attributes do not qualify a person to be a Christian according to the Bible. God’s Holy Word tells us that a follower of Christ is a person of any nationality or race, who is repentant of sin, has accepted Christ’s death and resurrection, has the love of God within, and lives for Christ showing love and kindness to others. Other true Christian Pilgrims came to America, following the first group of Pilgrims. Unfortunately, so did a multitude of corrupt opportunists, fortune hunters, and adventurers.
The first group of Christian Pilgrims were anxious to get away from the tyranny of the Church of England. According to Eugene Stratton, author of Plymouth Colony, Its History and People, “Two groups of Separatists started out for America. One group bought a ship, the Speedwell, and the other group chartered the Mayflower. They set sail on July 31, 1620 from Leyden. However, the Speedwell was not seaworthy, and both ships turned back and harbored in Plymouth, England. Some of the Separatists returned to Leyden, but others were determined to get to America, and they departed on the Mayflower September 6, 1620. There were 30 sailors, and 102 passengers; some of whom were not Separatists, but were strangers and adventurers. The crew and the other passengers sometimes found it difficult to understand the righteousness of the Separatists way of living. However, they learned to respect one another and make the best of their journey under the crowded conditions.”
The Mayflower’s destination was Virginia, but somehow the ship got off course, and landed in Cape Cod Bay, now Provincetown, Massachusetts on November 11, 1620. While there, they drew up and signed the Mayflower Compact. William Bradford, who was to become the 2nd governor of the Plymouth Colony, recorded the following:
11 Nov. 1620 Bradford 75-76
I shall a little return back, and begin with a combination made by them before they came ashore; being the first foundation of their government in this place. Occasioned partly by the discontented and mutinous speeches that some of the strangers amongst them had let fall from them in the ship; That when they came ashore they would use their own liberty, for none had power to command them, the patent they had being for Virginia and not for New England, which belonged to another government, with which the Virginia Company had nothing to do. And partly that such an act by them done, this their condition considered might be as firm as any patent, and in some respects more sure.
The form was as followeth:
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 Honour 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 fame 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 Lod King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.
(This was taken from William Bradford’s book “Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, Edited by Samuel Eliot Morison, New York: Modern Library, 1967, and The Founders’ Constitution, Volume 1, Chapter 17, Document 1, The University of Chicago Press, 1987)
According to Pilgrim History written by R. Walton, a Richmond Family researcher, the Indians on Cape Code were not friendly. So the group made a decision to settle inland and found a good landing place that they called Plymouth Rock. Men were sent to explore the land, and no enemy Indians were found. They built houses and a Common House for storage and to be used as a shelter house for those without home. On Sunday the Pilgrims would worship God, sing Psalms, and listen to long inspiring sermons given by William Brewster. On Christmas Day, December 25, the Pilgrims did not believe it was scriptural to take the day off and have frivolity. Instead they chopped wood and prepared for the harsh winter. The winter was hard, food was scarce, and they had run out of herbal medicine. Half of the Pilgrims had died.The Spring brought new hope. In March of 1621 an English speaking Indian named Samoset came to make friends and brought other Indians to visit. One of them stayed to help the Pilgrims. His name was Squanto, and he taught them how to hunt and fish. Squanto also showed the Pilgims which wild plants were safe to eat, and showed them how to plant corn. Eventually, Chief Massasoit came to meet Governor Carver and make a peace treaty that lasted for 54 years.
The Pilgrims had suffered during the winter and had lost about half of their congregation. As Christian they looked upon the physical death of the earthly bodies of their loved ones as going to their heavenly home in God’s Eternal Kingdom. They would miss their dear ones, but knew they would be together again forever. They had the assurance that those who were departed would never be cold or hungry, would never have sickness, or grow old, or endure hardships or suffer again. Their loved ones were in the loving arms of their Heavenly Father, and were enjoying a great family reunion with those who had gone on before them, as the Bible promises. Their true life was just beginning, and they had passed through their earthly life successfully, choosing the salvation provided by their Creator. Their hope was in the words of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when He said in the Bible, John 14:2&3: “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” As God word says in I Cor. 15:55-58, “Death where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” With hope, the remaining 50 Pilgrims continued carving out a good life for their families and future descendents in the New World. The Pilgrims were not atheists, deists, or agnostics. They had faith in God, they believed in the Bible, tried to live righteously, and were Christians. They were our ancestors, who had a goal to establish a country where their children could prosper, live in freedom, and worship God according to the Bible.
Thanksgiving is a great American holiday that began with the earliest settlers in the New World. “ The event known as the ‘First Thanksgiving’ was celebrated after the Pilgrims’ first harvest in 1621,” wrote the 2nd governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, “Of Plymouth Plantation,” 1620-1647, pp. 85-92. In the Autumn of 1621 their harvest was plentiful, and they had all the game they could eat. The Pilgrims invited their Native American friends to a great three day feast. They thanked God for His blessings in the New World. There were 50 Pilgrims and 90 Indians in attendance, and the Indians contributed five deer. Historian, R. Walton a Richmond Family researcher wrote in his book, PLIGRIM HISTORY, “…it was truly a joyous time of thanks for all their good fortune.”
Pilgrim, Edward Winslow, wrote in Mourt’s Relation, “Primary Sources for ‘The First Thanksgiving’ at Plymouth,” (Pilgrim Hall Museum): “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, who for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
There were many Thanksgiving Days proclaimed after the first one. During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving to God in December of 1777 to celebrate the defeat of the British at Saratoga. The first House of Representatives voted to recommend the First Amendment of the newly drafted Constitution. It guaranteed the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, the right of the people to assemble peaceably, and to petition the government for grievances. The next day the House and the Senate jointly requested that President George Washington proclaim a day of thanksgiving for “the many signal favors of Almighty God.” On October 3, 1789 President George Washington created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the government of the United States of America: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’ Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation...” This was taken from “George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
What has happened to our government? What has happened to our educational system? What has happened to the textbooks and teachers who educate our children? We have allowed atheists to come in and corrupt our Christian nation. The atheistic philosophies and false theories teach our children that there is no God, and that there was no Creator. The textbooks indoctrinate our children with the theory that all things just accidentally occurred over millions of years. They teach our children that they were not created in the image of God and are not the highest of all other creations. Our children are taught that they are an animal descended from an ape. This theory is still based on unproven assumptions, but is taught in public school classrooms as facts. God cannot continue to bless a nation that denies Him. Parents must rise up and object to the false indoctrination of their children.