In writing the story about the Plymouth Plantation, it was stated it influenced the direction of this nation in ways that many today do not realize. One of the reasons why most are not aware of the depth and magnitude of the early settler’s influence on our nation is because it is not in our history books. Many generations of students are now lacking the knowledge and understanding of the roots of our nation, and in particular the Christian history.

One can truly say that the rapid growth of the colony had a profound effect on molding our future nation. Twelve years after the Plymouth Plantation settlement was founded the colony had made significant progress. Consider these facts:

  • A population of more than 20,000 people;
  • Had planted 50 towns and villages;
  • Organized 30 to 40 churches;
  • Founded Harvard College (now a college within Harvard University); and,
  • Sent settlements through Massachusetts into New Hampshire and along the banks of the Connecticut River. [1]

What is even more profound is learning that Harvard University’s foundation was by a Puritan minister, John Eliot (1604-1690), with an explicit purpose of propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a missionary to the natives and called the “Apostle to the Indians.” His proposal to establish the college in 1633 was realized three years later. New England’s First Fruits (1643) describes what led to the founding of Harvard College:

After God had carried us safe to New England and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our lively-hood, rear’d convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the Civil Government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance Learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the Dust. [2]

The portrayal of the Puritans has been steeped in belittling them as religious fanatics. Puritans were far from being fanatics and were very progressive in the practical growth of their communities and influencing the future direction of our country. [3]

The founding of Harvard College is proof of the driving mission to honor and glorify God in their lives and civic communities, including the formation of our government.

This account establishes the well-educated men who migrated to the colonies and led Harvard College:

“The Puritan migration which established the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut was led by alumni of Oxford and Cambridge. About a hundred Cambridge University men, and one third of that number from the University of Oxford, emigrated to New England before 1646, and from these alumni were recruited the founders and first governors of Harvard College.” [4]

The Puritans emphasized education and required a broad study of liberal arts, logic, metaphysics, natural science and natural philosophy. They surrounded these studies with a Christian influence, both outwardly and inwardly. Christian worship began and ended each college day, signaling that all was to be dedicated to the glory of the God. When pagan elements conflicted with Christian truths, the clerics provided Christian perspectives. The Puritans emphasized that all vocations were sacred. Over half (52%) of Harvard graduates in the 17th century became clergymen. [5]

The Puritan’s primary goal for all education was “Christian nurture and growth”. [6] This was prominent in “The Statues of Harvard,” the rules and guidelines for students:

Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2, 3).”[7]

This is the true history of our nation – that we were founded on the Rock of our Salvation.

[1] The Religious Foundations of America, Charles Lemuel Thompson, D.D., L.L.D., Fleming H. Revell Company, 1919, Page 140
[2] America’s Christian History, Gary DeMar, American Vision, Inc., 1993, Page 102
[3] End Note: Pilgrims and Puritans together represented two variants of Christian doctrine. Today this would be seen as different schools of theology and those denominations and churches that represent these doctrines. None of this diminishes the depth of our ancestors and their insightful leadership that brought about the United States of America as a Christian nation.
[4] The Founding of Harvard College, Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard University Press, 1998 (reprinted from the 1935 edition), Page 40
[5] The Soul of the American University, From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief, George M. Marsden, Oxford University Press, Copyright 1998
[6] Worldly Saints, Leland Rykell, 1986, Zondervan, Page 16
[7] Rules and Precepts Observed at Harvard College, dated September 26, 1642; Also, American Higher Education: A Documentary History, Volume 1, Statutes of Harvard, ca. 1646, Richard Hofstadter and Wilson Smith, Editors, University of Chicago Press, 1961

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