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.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE FOUNDING OF OUR COUNTRY

September 15th, 2011

Before we continue the history of the Mayflower and the Puritans, let us consider the term “Christian nation.” It originates in the fact that our country was founded by those who believed in God and His sovereign rule over the universe, nations, and humanity.

God’s sovereignty determined our country as a Christian nation. As Creator of the universe, nations and humanity, He administers His grace and mercy over all, believers and non-believers; He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). The Old and New Testaments state that He created the nations; “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.” (Genesis 17:6) and “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live” (Acts 17:26).

God’s promise to Abram, “In you all families of the earth will be blessed,” (Genesis 12:1-2; 17:6), was a promise to the world. The promise embraced land, family, social order, government and blessing. The specific reference to “all nations will be blessed” is a pronouncement of future destiny and goodness. More specifically, God’s blessing brings freedom, peace, joy, and prosperity (both spiritually and materially) to people and a nation. A great example of how God blesses a nation was during the reign of the Pharaohs (Genesis 41) in Egypt. A young Israelite, Joseph (read Genesis 39:3, 5), ends up in Egypt and rises to power as Administrator over the entire country. An interpretation of a dream predicted a seven-year famine. He set his hand to prepare for it and as a result saved Egypt and its people. “You have saved our lives,” they said (Genesis 47:25). What is amazing about God’s blessings on this nation was the Egyptian people did not worship or follow God, but were believers in false gods! 1

How did God’s sovereignty lead to America? Norseman reached Iceland in 874 and Greenland a century later. Leif Erickson, around the year 1,000, established a short-lived colony in Vinland (Newfoundland). There is speculation he may have reached the coast of Maine and Massachusetts, but there is no documentation or proof of this. During a stay in Norway, Leif converted to Christianity.2 Interestingly, his visit or visits had no influence on North America other than possibly being the first to discover it.

Christopher Columbus

The next and more important event was Christopher Columbus.  He made four voyages between 1492 and 1504. Columbus was “earnestly desirous of taking Christianity to heathen lands.”3   He declared his purpose was to be led by the Holy Spirit and 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. He wrote; “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).4   He landed in the Bahamas and then Cuba. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.

Columbus’ voyages led to the first lasting European contact with America and inaugurated a period of European exploration and colonization of foreign lands that lasted for several centuries and had, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Western world.5 Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of the spreading of the Christian religion.

What is evident is how God led the discovery of our country. Columbus had opened up the trail for others to follow and Christianity came throughout the settled areas and eventually in the western and southern regions of the United States. Spain, France and England moved to establish their presence from South America to North America and from Canada to Mexico. Even though Christianity came to parts of what was to be our country, it was the English and Puritans that led to establishing our government as a Christian nation. This brings us back to the Mayflower.

Pastor John Robinson’s letter7 to the passengers of the Mayflower spoke clearly about living in peace with all men, living godly lives, and work for the good of all and to establish a civil government promoting the common good based on God’s ordinance for your good. These are Christian principles as taught by God and recorded in the Old and New Testaments of the bible. His instructions reflected their belief in God’s sovereignty and determination of the nations. In other words, he was encouraging those coming to America to obey God, and apply God’s principles in their lives and in establishing a government. He wrote in the conviction that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12). His letter was prophetic.

The Mayflower voyage was to settle in Virginia: Before the Pilgrims sailed, they were granted a charter that authorized them to start a settlement in the northern part of the Virginia Colony.”7The

Mayflower

Mayflower never got to Virginia: “However, since they were in Massachusetts instead of Virginia, the charter was no longer considered valid, and leaders worried about a possible mutiny. The Mayflower Document was originally drawn up to be an interim governing document between charters. The Pilgrims eventually requested a new charter, and in 1621, they were granted the Second Peirce Patent. However, the Mayflower Compact remained in effect until 1691.”8

It was clearly an Act of God that the Mayflower never reached the intended destination. Instead, they reached Massachusetts where they settled.  Prior to departing from the Mayflower, the original Charter no longer applied and another Charter (Mayflower Compact)was formed. 9 It was this simple Compact and the lives of the Puritans that led to the foundation of our country as a Christian nation. What is even more interesting is that earlier Christian settlements by the Spanish and French that came out of Christopher Columbus’ voyages did not play a role in the formation of our nation. Most of that land remained under foreign control until the Louisiana Purchase, which took place in 1803.10  What did occur was the Christian influence through all these settlements that added to the transformation of our nation.

1 Sarita D. Gallagher and Steven C. Hawthorne, Blessings as Transformation, Mission Frontiers magazine, September-October 2011, p 10-14

2 Leif Eriksson, Encarta Encyclopedia, Archived 2009-10-31

3 Esmond Wright, The Search for Liberty: From Origins to Independence (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995) 5

4 http://acheritagegroup.org/blog/?p=196

5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus

6Scholastic Teacher – Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) Teaching Resources, Children’s Book Recommendations, and Student Activities. Milton Meltzer. Author, Columbus and the World Around Him

7 The Mayflower Farewell Letter, ACHG Blog, http://acheritagegroup.org/blog/?p=632 (September 8, 2011)

8 The Mayflower Compact, ACHG Blog, http://acheritagegroup.org/blog/?p=91 (January 19, 2010)

9 IBID.

10 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Purchase

THE SETTLERS OF NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA, ETC.

November 13th, 2010

Map of early settlements in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey

“The spirit of the age was present when the foundations of New York were laid. Every great European event affected the fortunes of America. Did a State prosper—it sought an increase of wealth by plantations in the West. Was a sect persecuted—it escaped to the New World. The Reformation, followed by collisions between English Dissenters and the Anglican Hierarchy, colonized New England. The Reformation, emancipating the United Provinces, led to European settlements on the Hudson. The Netherlands divide with England the glory of having planted the first colonies in the United States; they also divide the glory of having set the example of perfect freedom. If England gave our fathers the idea of popular representation, Holland originated for them the principle of federal union.”*

In the year 1609 the long conflict of Holland with Spain was suspended at the suggestion of Philip III, a confession on the part of Spain that she could no longer hope to successfully contest the supremacy of Holland, and a practical establishment of the independence of the United Netherlands. In the very same year that Holland took her position among the nations as a free, self-governing republic, Henry Hudson appeared at Manhattan Island and took possession of the region from the capes of Delaware to Canada, which he styled New Netherlands. The first occupancy was trading stations by the merchants of Amsterdam, who quickly perceived its admirable adaptation as a center for trade and commerce. First, the New Netherlands Company, in 1614, then the West India Company, in 1621, held the situation, the latter purchasing the island of the Indians. The West India Company appointed its governors, and public affairs were conducted by Dutch men on Dutch principles.

Through trade was the prime object with the first settlers at Manhattan, colonization soon became the ruling motive. Bold and enterprising were the first colonists, and intent upon the acquisition of wealth, but, having been educated in the National Dutch Church, they were much attached to it, and adopted early measures to establish religious worship in their home. Although the Dutch came to Manhattan in troublous times, they were not fugitives from persecution, as were the Huguenots, or from Protestant persecution, as were the Puritans. They belonged to the ruling party in the mother country, and brought with them the established Church order and the Calvinistic creed. These “contra-remonstrants” brought the Heidelberg Catechism stamped with the seal of orthodoxy by the Synod of Dort. A wise policy guided the West India Company in supplying their trading-posts and colonies with the means of religion and education at a very early date.

The earliest settlers in New Jersey were from New York. English Puritans from the eastern end of Long Island, at an early period, settled at Elizabethtown; and others from Connecticut soon followed. Later a considerable number of Scotch and Irish emigrants—all Protestants and most of them Presbyterian—settled in the central portions. English Quakers settled in West Jersey. Among them all the Puritan type decidedly predominated.

Delaware was claimed by the Dutch, in right of discovery, who made an unsuccessful attempt to settle it; but subsequently it fell into the hands of Gustavus Adolphus, the eminent Swedish prince and benefactor, and an eager promoter of colonization. Falling on the plains of Lutzen, his minister, Oxenstein, carried out his plans, and Delaware was settled with Lutheran Swedes. Though the colony was subsequently subdued by the Dutch from New York the Swedes are supposed to have constituted a large part of the substratum of the population. Quakers, New Englander, Scotch and Irish Presbyterians were subsequently added. (1)

1) Christianity in the United States, Daniel Dorchester, D.D., © 2009 American Vision Press, Powder Springs, GA; originally published by Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1888; Page 30-32

THE FOUNDERS OF THE SOUTHERN COLONIES

November 4th, 2010

Widely different in character were the early colonists of the Southern from those of the Northern States. It has been said, if New England may be regarded as colonized by the Anglo-Saxon race, with its simple manners, more equal institutions, and love of liberty, the South was colonized by men very Norman in blood, aristocratic in feeling and spirit, and with superior dignity of demeanor and elegance of manners.

The Virginia Colony was a Christian colony in intent and in fact. The charger required the maintenance of religious worship; boroughs were erected into parishes, with glebes and other provisions for the clergy. The assembly and the governor were urged to civilize the natives and bring them under the influence of the Gospel, and Indian children were educated. The Proprietaries of North and South Carolina were not wanting in high professions of zeal for the propagation of the Gospel, but it was left for later settlers to practically illustrate the purpose. Varied in origin, the number of those interested in promoting religious ends soon increased. “The good Oglethrope, one of the finest specimens of a Christian gentleman of the cavalier school,” let over a mixed people to settle upon the banks of the Savannah – poor debtors from English prisons, with godly Moravians from Germany, and brave Highlanders from Scotland.(1)

(1) Christianity in the United States, Daniel Dorchester, D.D., © 2009 American Vision Press, Powder Springs, GA; originally published by Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1888; Page 30