Land of the Pilgrims Pride 7/2/00

Ezra 8:21, 22

Jesus Christ had a band of loyalists who lovingly followed and served Him. Unfortunately there were others who were detractors, defectors, and disloyal. It has always been true. It is today. In love He appeals for repentance and renewal. He desires for His followers to enjoy “abundant life.”

Not only is this true among individuals but with churches also. There is a such a need in a broad segment of America and American churches. At one point in history He achieved this through a band of devotees known as Pilgrims. This very day we have sung of the land that was the “Pilgrims Pride.”

In the early 1600s the church in England had become corrupt. They were absorbed in doctrinal error, encumbered with ceremony, bound by tradition, and consequently spiritually anemic. Two groups sought spiritual renewal.

One wanted to bring about reform by staying in the church and purifying it from within. Seeing their efforts to be futile they left England for the new world. They are known as Puritans.

A second group saw the church as beyond renewal and withdrew. In and around the region of Scrooby they were bullied, hounded, imprisoned on trumped up charges, and driven underground. They left England and settled in Holland where they enjoyed religious freedom. Unfortunately they lost most of their physical possessions in their quest for religious freedom. Their jobs in Holland were menial requiring 15 hour work days. Their children suffered because of materialism in their adopted homeland.

They heard of the new land called America and determined it to be the place God was guiding them.

After 12 years in Holland, driven by great hope and inward zeal, they resolved to come to America for a specific purpose. That purpose was “to propagate and advance the gospel of the kingdom of Christ,” wrote William Bradford, their governor for 35 years.

They were not without one last major temptation. Satan uses one of his post attractive allures. Sir Walter Raleigh had returned from South America with stories of gold and great riches. They resolved to follow the goal set before them by the Lord and not the gold promised by Sir Walter Raleigh.

In 1620 they set sail for America on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. Soon after setting sail the Speedwell developed problems and the two ships returned to England. There all passengers boarded the Mayflower. Among the 104 on the Mayflower were 16 men, 11 women, and 14 children known as Pilgrims. Others who were on board that were not believers were known as “Strangers.”

What they were to endure required great faith to tolerate. Think of these conditions when you are next inconvenienced. These 104 persons were crowded below deck in a space the size of a volleyball court for over 6 weeks. The stench of an foul bilge, a diet of dried peas, dried pork, and dried fish made for poor appetites. Sea sick, virtually starving, and storm tossed they braved their conditions to achieve their purpose. They did it because of the Christian faith. They believed God had a plan for America and if He did the Dark Prince of this planet could not circumvent it. Likewise, they had faith in His care for them and desired to serve Him. Even in their deprived state they joyfully endured.

In addition to the misery suffered because of their physical condition, they had to endure the taunts of the tormenting crew and antagonistic Strangers.

Several of the crew mocked them unmercifully. The self-appointed leader of this group so despised the Pilgrims for their faith he gloated over their seasickness and delighted in telling them how much he looked forward to feeding their bodies to the fish. Death was a common shipmate among landlubbers.

At the height of this taunting this crewman came down with a fever and died in a single day. No other person contracted the mysterious fever. It was he who was buried at sea not the Pilgrims.

For nearly three months they endured praying all the while. They considered their adversity a call to further repentance and personal spiritual purity. They questioned God. Their question was not the “why” so often heard today. When things are less than ideal we complain to God and in a whiny voice ask, “Why me God?” Yes, they questioned and we should learn to ask their questions. Not “why” but “how.”

“Now that this has happened to me God HOW can you use it in my life?”

Our second question should be one they also asked.

“God what would you like to do in my life because of this?”

They came to America because they wanted to be “light bearers.” They wanted to create a society that would be equivalent to “a city set on a hill” to show forth God’s glory. They spoke of themselves as the stones out of which the Lord might build a new Jerusalem. They had a spiritual purpose in their lives and it gave them meaning.

Their ambition was to settle in northern Virginia, but the many storms they endured blew them off course.

November 9, 1620 the cry was heard, “Land Ho.”

They had begun their journey by kneeling on the dock at Delftshaven to ask God’s blessings: they ended it on the sand of Cape Cod, kneeling to thank Him for His blessings.

A scouting party returned to the ship having found a large iron pot of 36 ears of corn. This was their first taste of the staple that would save the lives of many.

God had not immuned them from adversity but He had blessed them in it and strengthened them because of it.

Their crossing was complete but their journey was not over. They had come ashore near Cape Cod. Finding this an unsuitable place they sailed further to what is known as Provincetown. Realizing their London charter did not extend as far north as Cape Cod, they concluded they were under no authority. Anchored off shore and on November 21, 1620, they drafted what is known as The Mayflower Compact. It was the covenant by which they were to be governed. It was the first such covenant of settlers on these shored. It contained principles our Founding Fathers would later incorporate in our nation’s Constitution. It contained the principle of “natural law” which is so despised today by liberal legal minds. It is a reference to the Creator of all natural law. It spoke of “just and equal laws,” that
is, equal justice under law. Meaning no person is above the law. It opens with these lines:

“In the name of God, amen. Having undertaken
for the glory of God, and advancement of the
Christian faith … a voyage to plant the first
colony in the northern parts of Virginia…”

They settled in a good harbor and called the place Plymouth because that was the name of the last town they left in their home land.

The gentle snow that began to fall did not hint of the devastation and death winter was to bring. Nearly half their number did not survive their first winter. In 1621, 35 more Pilgrims arrived and in 1623, 90 others. The drought that had gripped the land left their greeting party looking like skeletons clad in rage. Yet, they prevailed because they had purpose.

Six weeks of hell on an ill-lighted, rolling, pitching, stinking inferno stirred their emotions. Rather than complain they confessed. It brought to the surface unconfessed sins in their lives. Sins such as self-pity, anger, bitterness, vindictiveness, jealousy, and despair. An instant replay of those sins might make some today mindful of them in their lives:

Self-pity, anger, bitterness, vindictiveness, jealousy, and despair. If any of them are in your life confess and repent of them.

Throughout their voyage regardless of how grim their plight they prayed themselves through their despair and into peace and thanksgiving.

Mercy they sought and mercy they found. They found it because they sought it. Their adversity motivated them to evaluate their lives and confess their sins. Will our gratitude for God’s blessings stimulate us to do the same? Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? If so it is blocking God’s best for your life. As individuals and a nation corporate confession and cleansing is needed. We appropriately pray: “God bless America.” He has. We would do well now to pray: “God cleanse America.” He will.

In addition to our sins of spousal and child abuse, sexual immorality, promiscuity, pornography, and a legion of other outward sins the same ones confessed by the Pilgrims need to be confessed.

Aboard the Mayflower on July 21, Pastor John Robinson preached from Ezra 8: 21, 22:

“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river
Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before God,
to seek from Him the right way for us and our little
ones and all our possessions….The hand of the Lord
is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His
power and His wrath are against all those who
forsake Him.”

In that message is contained the confession of John Robinson which might well be acknowledged by many of us:
“Had not the truth been in my heart as a
burning fire shut up in my bones I had suffered
(would have let) the light of God to have been put
out on mine own unthankful heart by other men’s

Do you need to confess and beg His mercy?

It was Jesus who was the Pilgrims pride.

Time came for the Mayflower to return to England. Captain Jones, fearing for the lives of the Pilgrims to return with the ship. For good cause the offer was tempting. Only four couples that arrived still had one another. Many had lost children. Yet, not one returned. Amidst their dying something had been born because of their shared love for Christ. It was a willingness to suffer together for a cause bigger than they.