Right away an argument broke out. Since they had sailed north of their destination, the original governing arrangement did not apply, the troublemakers argued. They threatened to do as they pleased. But nobody wanted to chance still more days sailing south in the heavy seas and sand bars along the coast.
Thus was born the famous Mayflower Compact, a style of governance similar to the separatist churches of the 41 Pilgrims on board the Mayflower. Now they needed to include the 61 “strangers”, as the Pilgrims called them. These folks had been invited to join the Pilgrim expedition to supply a balance of skills for the new colony, and to boost the population.
William Brewster sat down and wrote:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
n the name of God, Amen. We, …having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith and the honor of our king and country…covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, 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.
The three paragraphs of text, expressing the essential ideas for self-government, was signed by all the men of age on board the Mayflower. It became the basis for the “town hall meetings” of New England. As the population grew, deputies were elected and sent to represent the different towns at the General Court sessions. Thus, the powerful idea and practice of liberty, with self-rule and representative government, had firmly taken root in American soil by the time of the Constitutional Convention for the United States of America in 1787.
That first winter after the Pilgrims’ arrival saw 60 percent of the 102 original colony members die of scurvy and malnutrition. And yet, no one deserted back to England on the Mayflower that spring! And by October of 1621, after a good harvest, they held the first Thanksgiving Feast, attended by 53 colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indians who had helped them through that first year. There were many miracles, small and large, and much to be thankful for in spite of the terrible hardship!
The theme of this great holiday is our gratitude to God for His care in the midst of the transience and hardship of life in a fallen world. Even the name Pilgrims tells us that – like the early Hebrews passing through a sinful world – they were “sojourners” on their way to “the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10).
We, too, are “pilgrims” on our way to the promised land. The purpose of life is not comfort, safety and compromise, but freedom under God to follow the leadership of our Lord and Maker in the great adventure of the Christian life!
As the popular Steven Curtis Chapman song goes:
Saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze,
Into the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.
Let’s follow our leader into the glorious unknown.
This is a life like no other, this is the great adventure!
The Pilgrims were on to a great truth. There is a much greater good realized in leaving behind the pursuit of comfort, ease and safety – “the things that were gain to me”, as the apostle says – in order to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7,14).
We are pilgrims on our way to something better. The hardships – the death and decay and frustrations of this world – are actually part of our reminder of the perfection for which our great Creator has called us and made possible for us through Jesus Christ! Our job in this life is to let the light of Him shine through us. In the midst of all the fear, the deception, the lies, the half-truths, the hiding of truth, we have our mission to make that light known – “for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith” … as the Pilgrims said in the Mayflower Compact.
Eventually, the Lord Himself will “…destroy…the veil that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7) – the myriad deceptions of darkness like evolution and Marxism and false philosophies of all kinds. But in the meantime, self-government requires participation and adherence to Christian principle – just like freedom requires responsibility. This is what the Lord’s plan is for us in the present life – to work through our “earthen vessels”. We pray. We work. We proclaim truth. It is not only both the genius and labor necessary for effective self-government, but it is God’s will for “His created images” in the present age.
As we close out another very important election season, we say: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come” (Isaiah 60:1). We should resolve anew to rejoice in the light of the truth of God in Christ and to spread that light of the truth! In a world filled with so much darkness, so much deception and corruption, American Democracy has enabled the bringing of freedom and truth, of gospel outreach and creation science outreach to much of the rest of the world.
Self-government is indeed a wonderful thing, but it comes with responsibility to uphold a governing rule that is, as much as possible, “for the glory of God”.