Welcome to the American Christian Heritage Group blog where we give you glimpses of our country's early Christian foundations. We hope you enjoy these, learn more about our Christian heritage and undertake reading of the many cited sources and end notes. Please feel free to register and leave comments.

THE MAYFLOWER FAREWELL LETTER

September 8th, 2011

A pastoral farewell letter to those sailing on the first Mayflower trip to America reveals how God’s Sovereignty directed the founding of America, its government and social order.

Stone carving of the Mayflower, Elizabethan Garden, Kenilworth Castle, England

The reason for the Mayflower voyage and its small band of Pilgrims is so profound in its meaning that most of us are unaware of how the decisions that were made and the actions taken have chartered a course making the United States of America a Christian nation. Although our economy is in economic distress (as of this writing) and the secularization of our nation is increasing, it is the very founding principles of our country and dependence on God that may keep and deliver us.

Knowing our American Christian heritage is more critical today than ever before. This history reveals God’s Sovereignty and how He guides His people. Charles B. Galloway (1898) points out, as quoted in Christianity and the American Commonwealth, that God’s plan is the salvation of individuals  and to determine the character of our civil institutions and the course of our social progress.1

England was a country of religious intolerance in the early 17th century. Ministers of the gospel were silenced, imprisoned, or exiled2. The Pilgrims were reformers and made efforts to reform the Church of practices that did not conform to the scriptures. They were tolerated at first, but later, and under King James, they were persecuted. This led to separating themselves from the Church and organizing their own congregations. One group, led by Richard Clyfton, John Robinson, and William Brewster, made a decision to flee England and go to Holland, where religious freedom was permitted. Soon after the congregation settled in Leyden, John Robinson was publicly ordained as their new minister. Other English Separatists had already settled in Holland.3 The decision to relocate was made early in 1619, when Deacon John Carver and Robert Cushman, who had business experience, were sent to London to negotiate with the London Company. They carried with them articles of belief, written by Robinson and Brewster, as evidence of their loyalty and orthodoxy.

Only a minority of the congregation (thirty-five members), under William Bradford, sailed on the Mayflower from England to America. They were joined by sixty-six people from Southampton and London who had little or no religious motivation. The majority of the congregation remained in Leyden, and planned to make the voyage at a later date. John Robinson agreed in advance to go with the group that was in the majority, but did not make the great historic trip. Before Brewster and his group left Holland, a solemn service was held, at which Robinson chose Ezra 8:21 as his text:

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”4

Pastor John Robinson wrote a farewell letter to the passengers of the Mayflower. It was read before departure. This letter set the tone of godly character and addressed the establishment of government. Here is his letter:

“Loving Christian friends, I do heartily and in the Lord salute you all, as being they with whom I am present in my best affection, and most earnest longings after you, though I be constrained for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say constrained, God knowing how willingly, and much rather than otherwise, I would have born my part with you in this first brunt, were I not by strong necessity held back for the present. Make account of me in the mean while, as of a man divided in myself with great pain, and as (natural bonds set aside) having my better part with you. And though I doubt not but in your godly wisdoms, you both foresee and resolve upon that which concerns your present state and condition, both severally and jointly, yet have I thought it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation unto them, who run already, if not because you need it, yet because I owe it in love and duty. And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known, and generally for our unknown trespasses, so doth the Lord call us in a singular manner upon occasions of such difficulty and danger as lies upon you, to a both more narrow search and careful reformation of your ways in his sight; least he, calling to remembrance our sins forgotten by us or unrepented of, take advantage against us, and in judgment leave us for the same to be swallowed up in one danger or other; whereas, on the contrary, sin being taken away by earnest repentance and the pardon thereof from the Lord sealed up unto a mans conscience by his spirit, great shall be his security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses, with happy deliverance from all evil, whether in life or in death.

Now next after this heavenly peace with God and our own consciences, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men what in us lies, especially with our associates, and for that watchfulness must be had, that we neither at all in our selves do give, no nor easily take offense being given by others. Woe be unto the world for offenses, for though it be necessary (considering the malice of Satan and man’s corruption) that offenses come, yet woe unto the man or woman either by whom the offense cometh, says Christ (Matt. 18:7). And if offenses in the unseasonable use of things in themselves indifferent, be more to be feared than death itself, as the Apostle teaches (1 Cor. 9:15), how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honor of God nor love of man is thought worthy to be regarded. Neither yet is it sufficient that we keep ourselves by the grace of God from giving offense, except with all we be armed against the taking of them when they be given by others. For how imperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person, who wants charity to cover a multitude of offenses, as the scriptures speak. Neither are you to be exhorted to this grace only upon the common grounds of Christianity, which are, that persons ready to take offense, either want charity, to cover offenses, or wisdom duly to weigh humane frailty; or lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites, as Christ our Lord teaches (Matt. 7:1-3), as indeed in my own experience, few or none have been found which sooner give offense, then such as easily take it; neither have they ever proved sound and profitable members in societies, which have nourished this touchy humor. But besides these, there are diverse motives provoking you above others to great care and conscience this way: As first, you are many of you strangers, as to the persons, so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way, least when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them; which does require at your hands much wisdom and charity for the covering and preventing of incident offenses that way. And lastly, your intended course of civil community will minister continual occasion of offense, and will be as fuel for that fire, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. And if taking of offense causelessly or easily at men’s doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more heed is to be taken that we take not offense at God himself, which yet we certainly do so often as we do murmur at his providence in our crosses, or bear impatiently such afflictions as wherewith he pleases to visit us. Store up therefore patience against the evil day, without which we take offense at the Lord himself in his holy and just works.

Another thing there is carefully to be provided for, to wit, that with your common employments you join common affections truly bent upon the general good, avoiding as a deadly plague of your both common and special comfort all retiredness of mind for proper advantage, and all singularly affected any manner of way; let every man repress in himself and the whole body in each person, as so many rebels against the common good, all private respects of men’s selves, not sorting with the general convenience. And as men are careful not to have a new house shaken with any violence before it be well settled and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much more careful, that the house of God which you are, and are to be, be not shaken with unnecessary novelties or other oppositions at the first settling thereof.

Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminence above the rest, to be chosen by you into office of government, let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations; not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God’s ordinance for your good, not being like the foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat, than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the Lord’s power and authority which the magistrate bears, is honorable, in howsoever mean persons. And this duty you both may the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform, because you are at least for the present to have only them for your ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that work.

Sundry other things of importance I could put you in mind of, and of those before mentioned, in more words, but I will not so far wrong your godly minds as to think you heedless of these things, there being also diverse among you so well able to admonish both themselves and others of what concerns them. These few things therefore, and the same in few words, I do earnestly commend unto your care and conscience, joining therewith my daily incessant prayers unto the Lord, that he who hath made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all rivers of waters, and whose providence is over all his works, especially over all his dear children for good, would so guide and guard you in your ways, as inwardly by his Spirit, so outwardly by the hand of his power, as that both you and we also, for and with you, may have after matter of praising his name all the days of your and our lives. Fare you well in him in whom you trust, and in whom I rest.

An unfeigned well-willer of your happy success in this hopeful voyage,

JOHN ROBINSON.”5

Pastor Robinson emphasizes that they must live in godliness. He concludes the letter (second to last paragraph) by clearly giving instruction to forming a political body.  Again, he encourages the character of the government must also be based on godliness.

In the next blog we will re-visit the Mayflower trip and how God’s providence freed the passengers from their original charter.

1 Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth, p3 (American Vision, Inc., Powder Springs, Georgia, © 2005, All rights reserved)

2 Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History: The Untold Story, p53 (2nd ed. American Vision, Inc., Powder Springs, GA 30127, © 1993,1995, All rights reserved)

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Robinson_%28pastor%29#Leaving_the_established_church

4 Ibid.

5 http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1526201/posts

ENDNOTE:

Reread the original blog on the Mayflower Compact here:

http://acheritagegroup.org/blog/?p=91

THOMAS JEFFERSON’S BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS

April 7th, 2010

Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint
— Thomas Jefferson, in “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom,” Section I

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . .
–Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time
–Thomas Jefferson, in A Summary View of the Rights of British America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
–Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence

Jefferson’s convictions (and those of other Founding Fathers), some have noted, were based in a theory called Natural Law, which essentially stated that there are certain laws are set by Nature and not given by man. But that theory can be traced to John Locke and John Hobbes among others. They in turn were influenced by and built on the works of  St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and other early church fathers—and we know where they got their ideas from—God’s Word. So there is obvious indirect influence of the Bible on Jefferson. But there is also more direct evidence of Jefferson’s Biblical foundations.

If you have studied the Bible, then Jefferson’s quotes above may sound familiar. That could be perhaps because Jefferson’s thoughts in those quotes—being a well-read man who read the Word—likely came from God’s Word, including these verses below. Note the parallels and similarity to Jefferson’s thinking in his quotes:

• Psalms 11:3I (KJV) “if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (see entire context from the Message Bible below in the End Notes)
o Jefferson’s phrase: Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis…
• Romans 8:19-21 (NIV) The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
o Jefferson’s phrase: The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time
• Hebrews 10:26-28 (NIV) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Revelation 14:6-8 (NIV) He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
o Jefferson’s phrase: I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . .

It is apparent from just these quotes alone that Jefferson, whom some incorrectly suggest set up a “wall of separation of church and state”, obviously didn’t believe there was a wall between church and state when it came to liberties endowed by God. Instead God’s Word, which breaks down every wall, shaped Thomas Jefferson’s heart.

_________________________________
End Notes:

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
the official website of Jefferson’s home, museum, library and archives
http://www.monticello.org/reports/quotes/memorial.html

Natural Law
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law

Bible Gateway
http://www.biblegateway.com

Psalms 11:1-5, The Message Bible
“I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now when you say, “Run to the mountains; the evil bows are bent, the wicked arrows Aimed to shoot under cover of darkness at every heart open to God. The bottom’s dropped out of the country; good people don’t have a chance”?  But God hasn’t moved to the mountains; his holy address hasn’t changed. He’s in charge, as always, his eyes taking everything in, his eyelids Unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood inside and out, not missing a thing. He tests the good and the bad alike; if anyone cheats, God’s outraged. Fail the test and you’re out, out in a hail of firestones, Drinking from a canteen filled with hot desert wind.  God’s business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye.”

ESCAPING DEATH

February 4th, 2010

Did you know that on January 30, 1835, there was an assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson’s life? It was the first presidential assassination in our country’s history. It is a great story because Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter and English immigrant ended up beaten to the ground by Andrew Jackson himself!

What makes this an exciting and great story is the fact that assassination attempt is unquestionably one of the strangest accounts you will ever hear. Jackson and most of his cabinet were attending a funeral for South Carolina Representative Warren R. Davis in the Capitol building. After the service, Jackson and his cabinet were exiting the building when Lawrence stepped out from the crowd and fired a small pistol three short paces (under nine feet) from Jackson. The gun’s hammer came down and let out a loud bang, but the gun misfired. Lawrence dropped the gun, pulled a second one out, and fired again. The derringer misfired again! Two guns, two shots, two misfires! What are the odds? Some say 125,000 to one.

Jackson lounged at Lawrence using his cane beating and subduing him. Richard Lawrence later told investigators he only felt genuine fear when he saw the 67-year old President charge!

Here is another amazing fact about this story; when investigators tested the two pistols, they fired perfectly with bullets going through an inch-thick wood at 30 feet.

Senator Thomas Hart Benton, who had also once shot at Jackson, reflected that “two pistols—so well loaded, so coolly handled, and which afterward fired with such readiness, force, and precision—missing fire, each in its turn, when leveled eight feet at the President’s heart . . . made a deep impression upon the public feeling, and irresistibly carried many minds to the belief in a superintending Providence.” To his friends, Jackson’s survival could be nothing but the work of a higher power. [1]

When we investigate the lives of the greatest of our national leaders, we discover an encompassing chord of faith which sustained them. Jackson had an immense sense of the hand of God upon his life. When he was on his death bed, Jackson said, “Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in His goodness and mercy. My lamp of life is nearly out, and the last glimmer is come. The Bible is true. The principles and statues of that holy book have been the rule of my life, and I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible. Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [2]

PHOTO: Richard Lawrence fires at Andrew Jackson (third from left), Library of Congress

[1] Trying to Assassinate President Jackson, By Jon Grinspan, American Heritage, http://tiny.cc/MIkUA
[2] On this Day, Dr. Paul E. Barkey, self-published;  Pictorial Life of Andrew Jackson, John Frost, Horatio Hastings Weld, Lindsay & Blakiston, T.K. & P.G. Collins, 1845; http://tiny.cc/3Co0E

A MEAL ON THE MOON

February 3rd, 2010

A little-known fact about the Apollo 11 landing 40 years ago:

Forty years ago, on July 20, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed out of the lunar module Eagle and took their historic first steps on the moon.

Several months later Buzz Aldrin told GUIDEPOSTS about a little-known “first” that also took place that day.

Before the lift-off, Aldrin was looking for a way to honor God’s presence in the Apollo 11 space mission. He talked about this with his minister, Dean Woodruff of Webster Presbyterian Church in Houston.

When in their discussions the Christian sacrament of communion was mentioned, a plan emerged.

Two Sundays before the moon shot, Aldrin participated in a small, private communion service at Webster Presbyterian, after which Dean Woodruff broke off a corner of the communion bread and gave it to Aldrin along with a tiny chalice and some wine.

Aldrin sealed these in plastic packets and safely stowed them in his personal preference kit (each astronaut was allowed to take a few personal items with him).

July 20, 1969, was a Sunday. At 3:17 p.m. (Houston time) the Eagle touched down.

Aldrin took out the communion elements from their flight packets and put them on a small table in front of the abort guidance-system computer. Then he called Houston, and asked for a few moments of silence.

In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, he poured the wine, watching it curl gracefully up the side of the chalice.

From a slip of paper he read the biblical passage, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, Revised Standard Version).

And then he took communion.

[1] A Meal On The Moon, Guideposts Magazine, July1989

PHOTO: Buzz Aldrin

COLUMBUS MEANS “CHRIST-BEARER”

February 2nd, 2010

Christianity in the founding of America is not confined to the early settlers in the 1600’s. Christopher Columbus in 1492 declared his purpose to be led by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God was his foundation he said. God sent him as a forerunner to prepare the way for those who were to possess the land. Here is a delightful essay that tells the story:

“No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior if it is right and the purpose is purely for His holy service.” (Fols. 4-6 of Book of Prophecies by Christopher Columbus)

As a young boy, Columbus trusted Christ as his Savior and discovered the Ways of God. He felt that God wanted him to explore the world and find new land and people so that Christ could be proclaimed. He became an excellent sailor and businessman and overcame many problems with God’s help, even mutiny and being bound in chains.

“All those who heard of my plan disregarded it mockingly and with laughter. . … Who would doubt that this (idea for sailing west) . . . came from the Holy Spirit . . .” In Columbus’ own writing, the “Book of Prophecies,” we have evidence that “the Bible was the principal source of inspiration for the great Columbian enterprise.” (Christopher Columbus: His Life and Discovery in the Light of His Prophecies by Kay Brigham. Libros CLIE, Spain, 1990 p. 53)

The Scripture that Columbus read and believed were the inspiration for his journey around the world. In a written statement from Columbus’ own hand, he testified that it was from reading the book of Isaiah that he discovered that the world is round. Isaiah 40:22 “It is (God) that sits upon the circle of the earth.” At a time when most believed that the earth was flat, it was the Scriptures that inspired Christopher Columbus to sail west. He wrote (from his diary, in reference to his discovery of “the New World”): “It was the Lord who put it into my mind. I could feel His hand upon me … . . there is no question the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures.” (Ibid) [1]

[1] Publisher’s Blog, Guest Essay by James Rose, American Christian History Institute, achipa.com

END NOTE: Christopher Columbus Discovers America, 1492 at: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/columbus.htm ; Eye Witness to History, 2004, offers a short summary of Columbus arriving in America.

THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY

February 1st, 2010

Our Christian history pertains to God and his Divine Providence. The founding of America clearly demonstrates providential history, God’s care and guidance of his people and the formation of a nation. The earliest writings show us that the founders of our nation clearly understood their total reliance on God. One of the most powerful and clear statements of God’s hand in American history was preached by the Reverend S.W. Foljambe in an Election Day sermon. He was the Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Malden, Massachusetts, a church founded in 1803. [1]

The Election Day sermon was an important institution in colonial New England. The sermon was not usually, it must be stressed, an attempt to influence the outcome of elections. Instead, it was a reflection on the relationship between government and God, between the polity and Divine Authority. In New England, it was a reminder that the colonial governments were supposed to be expressions of the covenant between God and His people. [2]

Reverend S.W. Foljambe’s Election Day sermon of January 5, 1876, was delivered to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. After the sermon, Mr. Foque of Malden, a Representative, was appointed to present the thanks of the House to the Rev. S. W. Foljambe, of Malden, and to request a copy of the election sermon for publication, with the manuscript of said sermon, and recommending the adoption of an Order providing that 2,000 copies be printed. It was reduced to 1,000 and printed (this was a yearly practice). [3]

Reverend Foljambe’s sermon is very long and it is recommended that you refer to the footnote reference to read a copy online. Here are some brief excerpts to give you the general idea of content:

“When St. Paul stood before that famous court of which the poets and orators of Greece tell such proud things, he proclaimed to them the God they knew not, filling up the inscription to the unknown God with the name of Jehovah. He tells them more of God in a few minutes, than Plato had done in all his life. He brings the matter closely home to them, and makes them feel as if in contact with God; not with an ideal merely, but with a living, personal Being, whose providence is directed at once to the individual interests of men, and the highest interest of nations.
‘Seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him’ (Acts 17:25-27)
Such is the divine basis of that institution which we call the State, and such the ultimate religious end of its existence. Not in force, nor in any mutual compact, nor yet in the family, does the State have its origin. The family and the State may seem to be more intimately related, but they are in fact totally distinct from each other. The State cannot be the natural product of the family, for it is animated by another kind of spirit. The family is the sphere of affection and custom, the State is the sphere of justice; the family is the product of nature, but is evolved under the action and control of Providence, and the tendency of its history, both as to its limitations and powers, is to lead it to God, who exerises that providence, and is the source of that spirit of justice which is its root and life.

The more thoroughly a nation deals with its history, the decidedly will it recognize and own an overruling Providence therein, and the more religious a nation it will become; while the more superficially it deals with its history, seeing only secondary causes and human agencies, the more irreligious will it be. If the history of any nation is the development of the latent possibilioties existing in its special nature, it is also the record of Divine Providence furnishing place and scope for that development, creating its opportunities and guiding its progress. History is not a string of striking episodes, with no other connection but that of time. It is rather the working out of a mighty system, by means of regularly defined principles as old as creation, and as infallible as divine wisdom. With this truth in view, we approach our chosen theme, –
The Hand of God in American History.” [4]

That is the Introduction to a powerful, concise account of God’s hand in our nation’s history. It will be worth your time to read the entire sermon slowly and carefully. It is practically a complete historical education of our early days.

Photo: Massachusetts State Capitol Building, 1798

[1] Directory of the City of Malden, Page 155, C.W. Calkins & Company Printers, 1882
[2] Election Preaching, Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., Acton Institute Blog, November 2008, Page 4
[3] Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1876, Page 233.
[4] “The Hand of God in American History,” A Sermon Delivered Before The Executive and Legislative Departments of the Government of Massachusetts at the Annual Election, Wednesday, January 5, 1876, by Rev. S.W. Foljambe; http://tiny.cc/XObOX; also, The Christian History of the American Revolution, Verna M. Hall, Foundation for American Christian Education, 1976, Page 46

CONNECTICUT FOUNDED ON WORD OF GOD

January 24th, 2010

Part 1

The settlers established many communities in Connecticut with most being Christian migrations from Massachusetts. Following the Jamestown and Plymouth Colonies, Connecticut became the third to receive a Charter. Prior to the Charter, several communities had established constitutions based on the word of God.

Thomas Hooker (1586–1647) founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was a prominent Puritan religious and colonial leader, an ordained minister and was a great speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage. Hooker also had a role in creating the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut”, one of the world’s first written constitutions. [1]

Before Hooker settled in Connecticut, there were other very important settlements. Adriaen Black, A Dutch navigator, was the first European to explore the Connecticut region when he sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614. In 1633, when English colonists from Massachusetts Bay Colony became interested in the fertile Connecticut Valley, the Dutch tried to protect their claims by building a fort near what is now Hartford on land purchased from the Pequot Indians. Undaunted, the English responded by settling at Windsor in 1633, Wethersfield in 1634, Hartford in 1635, and New Haven in 1638. They also founded additional communities along Island Sound. [2]

The first organization of civil society and government was made, in 1639, at Quinipiack, now the beautiful city of New Haven. The emigrants, men of distinguished piety and ability, met in a large barn, on the 4th of June, 1639, and in a very formal and solemn manner, proceeded to lay the foundations of their civil and religious polity. [3]

Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, a wealthy merchant from London, led a company of emigrants, mostly from Massachusetts, and pitched their tents on the northern shore of Long Island Sound. Here under a great oak Davenport expounded the Scriptures, saying that the people, like the Son of Man, were led forth into the wilderness to be tempted; and here they set up their government with the Mosaic law as their code adapted to the conditions, and with the closest union of Church and State. [4]

The Reverend John Davenport and Teophilus Eaton were the founders of New Haven. George Bancroft says in his historical account that, “After a day of fasting and prayer, they rested their first frame of government on a simple plantation covenant, that ‘all of them would be ordered by the rules which the Scriptures held forth to them.’” [5] Here is further historical proof of how our founders believed that the word of God had to be the foundation to our law and fundamental government.

We see that the government was instituted by the church. Mr. Davenport (who was a Pastor) introduced the subject of establishing the government from the words of Solomon, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” A committee of seven was formed that included Davenport and Eaton. They were known as “the seven pillars.” Essentially, once they had completed their work, New Haven made the Bible its governing law and order of government.

The FUNDAMENTAL ORDERS OF 1639 became the constitutional document establishing government in Connecticut. The preamble reads as follows:

“For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth:” [6]

The new General Court, established under this constitution, ordered “That God’s word should be the only rule for ordering the affairs of government in this commonwealth.” [7] Theophilus Eaton was elected Governor and held the position for 20 years. Mr. Davenport became the colony’s pastor.

[1] History of the United States of America, Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904
[2] America’s Christian History, Gary DeMar, American Vision, Inc., 1993, 1995
[3] The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin F. Morris, American Vision, Inc., Page 88
[4] History of the United States of America, Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904
[5] History of the Colonization of the United States, George Bancroft, Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841
[6] Fundamental Orders of 1639, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library online at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/order.asp
[7] The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin F. Morris, American Vision, Inc., Page 90

JOHN ELIOT – APOSTLE

January 21st, 2010

By the early 1630s it was nearly impossible for anyone with Puritan convictions to receive a pastoral position in the Church of England. For that reason, many left for the New World, including a pastor named John Eliot. Born in 1604, Eliot had received his education at Jesus College, Cambridge, and although he had taken orders in the Church of England, his sympathies were with the Puritan Party. For a period of time after his graduation from Cambridge, he had assisted Thomas Hooker (later the founder of Connecticut) at Chelmsford in Essex but even there the long arm of Laud exerted its influence by threatening him with suspension.

In 1631 Eliot decided to emigrate to the New World. He arrived at Massachusetts Bay Colony in July of that year on the same ship that brought the family of John Winthrop, the Colony’s first governor. He was invited to preach for several months at the First Church of Boston while their minister John Wilson was in England. Eliot’s preaching was so well received that he was offered the position of Teacher of the church, which he declined in favor of a similar offer from the church at Roxbury. He was settled in Roxbury as Teacher in October 1632 and remained there for fifty-seven years until his death in 1690.

When the Puritans came to the New World they had two goals. One was to form a pure church by separating themselves from the perceived corruptions of the English Church. The other was to bring the Gospel to the native inhabitants. On the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the figure of a Native American ringed by the words “Come over and help us” (Acts 16:9). Thus from its very foundation the Massachusetts Bay Colony articulated the desire to meet the spiritual needs of the native inhabitants of the New World, and there is no doubt that Eliot possessed the desire to carry out this objective. [1]

What is outstanding about the Reverend John Eliot is he truly was an Apostle. An Apostle is considered to be a missionary, but there is more depth to the work of an Apostle. They are responsible for building the church, its government and order. As such, Apostles are planters of the church and John Eliot was called “Apostle of the Indians” because of the fruit of his work. His influence became a major force of change and was far reaching. Consider these achievements:

  • Establishing the Company for Propagating the Gospel in New England, the first missionary organization in our country;
  • Eliot’s methods set the pattern of subsequent “Indian missions” for almost two centuries;
  • By 1674 there were 14 villages with 4,000 converts among the Indians;
  • His converts were gathered into Christian towns, governed by a biblical code of laws;
  • He established schools and encouraged others to establish schools;
  • He translated the Bible in the Algonquin Indian Language and published it in 1663 – it was the first Bible printed in the United States
  • He was influential in the founding of Harvard College (University) and became one of its Governors;
  • John Harvard (1607-1638), a disciple of John Eliot, and a Puritan minister, gave the unorganized college one-half of his estate (Cambridge, MA) and library; then it was named Harvard College in his honor in 1639;
  • Founded The Roxbury Latin School that is the oldest school in continuous operation in North America;
  • He wrote The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ. [2]

The Christian Commonwealth was a document intended as a plan of government for the Natick Indian community. John Eliot strongly believed government is to be founded on God’s word. Here is an excerpt:

[It is not for man] to search humane Polities and Platformes of Government, contrived by the wisdom of man, but as the Lord hath carried on their works for them, so they ought to go unto the Lord, and enquire at the Word of his mouth, what Platforme of Government he hath therein commanded; and humble themselves to embrace that as the best … [The] written Word of God is the perfect System or Frame of Laws, to guide all the Moral actions of man, either towards God or man.” [3]

John Eliot’s plan for the political organization based on the word of God has far reaching ramifications. Our constitutional liberties are a direct result of our founders’ moral and religious convictions which were based on a belief in a God who created heaven and earth as well as on the fixed and unchanging absolutes of God’s Word.

[1] Sola Scriptura, John Eliot and America’s First Bible
[2] Compiled from various historical accounts
[3] The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ, John Eliot, London, (written in 1649, published in 1659)