National Monument To The Forefathers
By Katherine Dang August 2, 2014
“The Bible itself, particularly the Geneva edition of 1560 and the Authorized Version of 1611, is the single most important primary source for the intellectual history of colonial America.” (Lawrence Cremin)
“It has been estimated that over 40 per cent of the books printed in England between 1480 and 1640 were religious in theme, as were some 50 per cent of those printed by the American press between 1639 and 1689. Bibles, service books, and systematic theological treatises accounted for a good part of this reading matter; but the bulk of it consisted of miscellaneous works of edification, that is, anthologies of prayer, popular sermons, manuals of conduct, exemplary biographies, guides to living and dying – in short, didactic material seeking to specify the nature and character of piety. . . . No phase of Christian living was without its vade mecum setting forth appropriate thoughts and behavior for every occasion.” From Governor William Bradford’s records: “. . . many became inlightened by ye word of god, and had their ignorance & sins discovered unto them, and begane by his grace to rforme their lives, and make conscience of their ways. . . so many therefore of these professors . . . whose harts ye Lord had touched with heavenly Zeale for his trueth. . . shoke of this yoake of antichristian bondage, and as ye Lords free peope, joined them selves (by a covenent of the Lord) into a church estate, in ye fellowship of ye gospel, to walke in all his ways, make known or to be made known unto them. . . .”
The Forefather’s Monument graphically depicts the historic Christian origin of America’s form of civil government: local self-government.
The Christian who became the Pilgrim of Plymouth viewed The Bible as the supreme judge of the actions and affections of man.
His education from The Bible framed his character and conscience and his ideas and principles in regard to home, church and civil government: government by consent, local self-government and voluntary union: thereby presenting to the world the answer to despotic churches and civil governments.
He established a free church in a free state. In protecting the unhindered advancement of the Gospel, he, as well, established a community free from religious tyranny.
He institutionalized every man’s right to exercise his own volition in matters of belief and religious expression.
From the Genesis of the New England Churches, by Leonard Beacon, one reads: “. . . The Pilgrim was a Separatist, not only from the Anglican Prayer book and Queen Elizabeth’s episcopacy, but from all national churches. . . . The Pilgrim wanted liberty for himself and his wife and little ones, and for his brethren, to walk with god in a Christian life as the rules and motives of such a life were revealed to him from God’s Word. For that he went into exile; for that he crossed the ocean; for that he made his home in a wilderness.”
The Pilgrims chose for their church and civil leaders men of knowledge and high intellect and accomplishments.
James Daugherty in his Landing of the Pilgrims says of Elder William Brewster: “He was Steward of the Manor and collected the rents from the tenants of the wide domain of the Archbishop of York. He was the administer of the law and justice for the district. A man of learning . . . had attended Cambridge in his youth, where he had studied Greek and Latin. Later, in the service of Queen Elizabeth, he had accompanied one of her ambassadors on an important mission to the Low Countries. He had seen the great world, yet he had come back to this remote corner of England to be Postmaster at Scrooby where his father had held the same office. Although Brewster had moved among the great ones of his day, he was neither proud nor vain. He was respected by his superiors for his wisdom and godliness.”
Of Pastor John Robinson, Bradford says: “. . . for besids his singular abilities in devine things (wherein he excelled), he was also very able to give directions in civill affairs, and to foresee dangers & inconveniences; by wch means he was very helpful to their outward estats. . . .”
Biographer Cotton Mather writes of Governor William Bradford as: “A person of study as well as action. . . he attained unto a notable skill in languages: the Dutch tongue was become almost as vernacular to him as the English; the French tongue he could also manage; the Latin and the Greek he had mastered; but the Hebrew he would see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty.” “He was also well-skilled in History, in Antiquity, and in Philosophy, and for Theology he became so versed in it, that he was an irrefragable disputant against errors, especially those of Anabaptism, which with trouble, he saw rising in the colony.”
As the Pilgrims practiced local self-government in church affairs, they would practice local self- government in their civil affairs, applying the Scriptural form of government in both ecclesiastical and political assemblies; the manner of gov’t of a Separatist religious body, became a pattern for Plymouth’s political body.
It was only natural that The Mayflower Compact reflected the experience of a people educated in the Bible, and who established New Testament local self-governing churches, which would pattern a civil government after the fact.
His capacity for Biblical reasoning culminated in the writing of the Mayflower Compact. In the untamed, unsettled wilderness of America, , in ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, the Pilgrim established the first self-governing political institution of civil government in the history of mankind, which thereafter became the model of local self-government and independency for every succeeding American colonial settlement.
“It was thought good there should be an Association or Agreement, that we should combine together in one body; Governors as we should, by common consent, agree to make and choose: and set our hands to this that follows, word for word.” The Pilgrims (some say Elder Brewster) composed The Mayflower Compact “In ye name of God”: By the authority of Him whom they believed ordained the institution of civil government, that men should establish civil rulers among themselves, who are as servants of God, to administer justice between men living in common society, fulfilling man’s mutual duty to keep one another safe.
The people chose their rulers and made their own laws to which, they on their own volition agreed to obey. “ In the name of God. . . .We . . . . covenant & combine our selves togeather into a civil body politick, for our better ordering & preservation. . . . to enacte, constitute, and frame such just & equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time. . . . we promise all due submission and obedience. . . . we have hereunder subscribed our names. . . .”
There is genius in the Mayflower Compact. It was non-sectarian; no State church nor religion is established.
It did not establish a parish of King James’s Church as no submission is owed to the King’s religious beliefs; as the Pilgrim would not violate his conscience, he would not have another violate his.
It secured freedom to follow a Christian conscience, without imposing upon another individual’s conscience by the establishment of a state religion or sect thereof; “haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie. . . .(coercion is unchristian; Christianity advances liberty)”
No unlawful authority is owed submission; “due” submission is lawful submission; lawful submission is obedience to lawful authority. They would not submit to unlawful authority, such as submission to religious and ecclesiastical tyranny.
It sees no contradiction in being a Christian and a loyal subject to the king. To a Pilgrim, a Christian submits to all lawful authority. Lawful authority is authority only ordained and delegated by God.
My love for American is from a deep place of thanksgiving.
As a student of history, I know for thousands of years, mankind knew only one form of government: centralized, despotic government. America established the first republic founded upon self-government, a government of, for and by the people themselves; by a people who from their education were capable of making their own laws through rulers and lawmakers from among themselves. America’s republic, only 238 years old, proves to be the alternative to all the murder, mayhem, misery, squalor and impoverishment men have known for millenniums.
Nowhere in the world can men experience the degree of individual liberty as one does in America. Americans enjoy: religious liberty, freedom from the belief of another; civil liberty, freedom from the interference of civil rulers into the personal affairs of the individual; economic liberty, freedom to enjoy the fruits of one’s own labor; and political liberty, freedom from the control of another nation.
Americans enjoy these liberties because of a constitutional form of government which secures individual liberty, protections not granted to mankind elsewhere which have histories only of despotic and tyrannical governments. Individuals have lived and shall live who enjoy nothing of the liberties Americans do.
Personally, a sobering thought comes to mind, that as a daughter of Chinese emigrants, I am only one ship-load from China; had my father and mother never emigrated to America, two years before Mao-tse-Tung and his vicious brand of tyranny overtook China—with the blood of 80 millions of Chinese on his hands—I would have been born under that tyranny and my life, today, would be bound by fear to the state and ignorant of the divine principles of liberty and self- government.
As the history of America testifies, when people learn these principles, and in them, abide in protected liberty, they will of certainty flourish in every area of life and living. In 1790, a year after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, Samuel Adams states: “Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls; of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy; and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small. . . .”
So, it is one thing to achieve freedom and another thing to maintain it.