By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. …(Hebrews 11:8-10)
Every year about this time,(Late November) I ponder our Pilgrim forbearers, who left England for Holland and eventually for the “new World” in order to worship God in freedom and perhaps create a Christian colony in an unknown land.
These people were not professional soldiers, nor were they youthful adventurers, seeking to make a fortune. They were normal people, lower to middle class and with families, despised and persecuted within their own societies.
They had everything to lose, humanly speaking, first as dissenters from the Church of England and then by leaving Holland because they feared that their children were becoming worldly in the more permissive Dutch Society. They wanted a heavenly country.
So the congregation in Leiden, Holland pooled their meager resources and sent half of their number to the New World to become a beachhead for the remainder to come later. The farewell was heartbreaking, according to William Bradford’s recollection,
…With mutual embraces and many tears, they took their leaves of one another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them…but they knew they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted their eyes to heaven, their dearest country and quieted their spirits…
They had originally chartered two boats, selling themselves into indentured servitude for seven years to pay for it, but one of those boats proved un seaworthy, so they crowded all 102 of them into a hundred foot ship called the MayFlower, crewed by 40 men, and made the dangerous journey across the Atlantic to an unknown world.
Why couldn’t these Christians just conform to the Church of England? Why didn’t they just throw up their hands and admit defeat in stemming the tide of worldliness which they felt was swallowing up their children, after all it would be normal for children to drift from their parent’s faith, right?
God had stirred them. These people hungered and thirsted for something far higher and purer than what their world had to offer them. They wouldn’t just settle for worldly status quo. They were Pilgrims.
Half of them died that first harsh winter. But that didn’t deter them. They buried their dead in the hope of the resurrection, and persevered in building cabins, a church, planting crops, enduring harsh weather, and sending for more likeminded Pilgrims, who would come also seeking worship, and pure and free ways to express their Christianity, in a harsh but rich new land.
Heaven was more real to these people than earth, they feared not death, having met Jesus Christ, the one who holds the Keys of death and of Hades. Having heard Him and following Him, their own world in England and in Holland had become alien to them. They could see that there was no way they could make a permanent life there, not without losing their souls.
I think a lot of us have been seeing the same thing these days. We cannot live in a homosexual world or a Muslim world. We once lived in a Judeo Christian world, flawed yes, but somewhat livable. But it has morphed into this present perverted, corrupt and violent world which we vex our souls over, every day and every night.
God himself ants us to see that there is no permanent dwelling place here in the city of destruction, and calls us to pilgrimage. We must forsake our Love of the World and all of the things within it. We must long for heaven and for the city whose builder and maker is God.
The Pilgrims of our American founding were wonderful and beautiful Christians to boot. They loved the Word of God, giving us some of history’s greatest Bible Scholars and theologians, but in some ways they were misguided.
America was a gift to them, but it has not ever been nor could it be a “shining city on a Hill”, it is just a resting place. Puritanism was not the replacement of Israel, America could not be the promised land.
The Pilgrims would eventually settle in, farm, prosper, open Harvard and Yale (for the training of ministers) and attain wealth and become the establishment, (losing their pilgrim spirit) and eventually apostasize,(New England would become the breeding ground of Unitarianism, Masonism, Mormonism, and eventually atheism in America).
The true Christian is always a pilgrim, we can never “fit in” to this world, we are always just passing through, on our way to a better country and city.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.(Hebrews 11:13-17)