The Pilgrims: Laying America’s Foundations, Part 3

In part two you were introduced to the troubling concerns which increasingly motivating the Pilgrims to move somewhere else.  But those concerns were not the only thing motivating them to move on.  There was something else; there always is when people have a vision in their heart of doing something for God.  Bradford tells us the vision: “Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.” [1]

From : History of the Pilgrims and Puritans, their ancestry and descendants; basis of Americanization

From : History of the Pilgrims and Puritans, their ancestry and descendants; basis of Americanization

How about you?  When things are going bad, when you have many things which discourage you, do you still have a vision of something you can do, where you can make a difference for God?  As long as we have breath, we all can be a vessel for honor.  God gives us this promise: “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the master, prepared for every good work.”  —2 Timothy 2:21

Who knows what great thing the Lord might have for you that is just around the next bend in the road.  A good example comes from the life of Abraham Lincoln: On the front porch of his little country store in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln and Berry, his partner, stood. Business was all gone, and Berry asked, “How much longer can we keep this going?” Lincoln answered, “It looks as if our business has just about winked out.” Then he continued, “You know, I wouldn’t mind so much  if I could just do what I want to do. I want to study law. I wouldn’t mind so much if we could sell everything we’ve got and pay all our bills and have just enough left over to buy one book—Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law, but I guess I can’t.”

A strange-looking wagon was coming up the road. The driver angled it up close to the store porch, then looked at Lincoln and said, “I’m trying to move my family out west, and I’m out of money. I’ve got a good barrel here that I could sell for fifty cents.” Abraham Lincoln’s eyes went along the wagon and came to the wife looking at him pleadingly, face thin and emaciated. Lincoln ran his hand into his pocket and took out, according to him, “the last fifty cents I had” and said, “I reckon I could use a good barrel.” All day long the barrel sat on the porch of that store. Berry kept chiding Lincoln about it. Late in the evening Lincoln walked out and looked down into the barrel. He saw something in the bottom of it, papers that he hadn’t noticed before. His long arms went down into the barrel and, as he fumbled around, he hit something solid. He pulled out a book and stood petrified: it was Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law.  Lincoln later wrote, “I stood there holding the book and looking up toward the heavens. There came a deep impression on me that God had something for me to do and He was showing me now that I had to get ready for it. Why this miracle otherwise?”[2]

A new future might be just around the next bend in the road for you, just as it was for Abraham Lincoln and just as it was for the Separatists in Holland who were about to become the Pilgrims. Now, of course, there are always obstacles, both foreseen obstacles and obstacles that we cannot foresee, but they come with having a great goal. When the Separatists in Holland were discussing the possible problems of moving to America, it was replied that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both met and overcome with answerable courage. It was granted the dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible.  For many of the things feared might never befall; others by provident care and the use of good means might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome.  True, it was that such attempts were not to be undertaken without good reason, rashly or lightly; or, as many have done, for curiosity or hope of gain.  But their condition was not ordinary; their ends were good and honorable; their calling lawful and urgent; therefore they might expect the blessing of God on their proceedings.

Yea, though they should lose their lives in this action, yet might have the comfort of knowing that their endeavor was worthy. [3]  The above statement is something which should be read over and given careful thought.  Notice the statement that such attempts were not to be taken without good reason or as many have done for hope of gain.

Woodrow Wilcox


Notice the difference between these men and women and a lot of people. “Their ends were good and honorable; their calling lawful and urgent.”  When the one who said “their ends were good and honorable,” meant their ends, their goal, would honor God.  It was for the glory of God.  When he said that their calling was lawful, he meant they had a calling from God and it was according to the laws of God.  Their calling was the same as their vision: “for the propagation  and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.” [4]

They believed this calling in their hearts.  They should not be alone in this.  All of us should walk closely enough with the Lord, so that we know what our calling is.


The decision was made.  They would go to America. Plans and arrangements were made, and problems were worked out. Then came the time to leave. When they were ready to depart, they had a day of solemn humiliation, their pastor taking his text from Ezra 8:21: “And there at the river, by Ahava, I proclaimed a fast that we might humble ourselves before our God, and seek of Him a right way for us and for our children, and for all our substance.” [5]

Notice here, they made sure they sought God’s guidance before leaving on this great trip. This was not unusual for they were in the habit of seeking God on a regular basis.  In doing so, they were acknowledging the wisdom, power, and righteousness of God. They were also praying with the understanding that they were in covenant with God.  They were approaching God in prayer, believing He would lead them by a right way, and humbly admitting that they needed His help, which they did. For there would be many dangers to face, and many trials to go through.

But God would answer their prayers, for they were people who were in covenant with Him.  2nd Chronicles 16:9 says: For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. This was certainly true of these people. Their hearts were loyal to Him. This being the case, having said their prayers, they departed. Where were they going? To America?  Yes.  To New England?  Yes.  But more than that, they were going to a land of spiritual darkness.  And they were bringing the light of Jesus Christ.


[1]  Ibid., p. 21

[2]   Biblical Studies Press; reprinted with permission from 

[3]   William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 22-23.

[4]  William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 21

[5]  Ibid. p. 49.

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Bob Wittstruck was a pastor for 33 years, was the associate director of the Black Hills Creation Science Association, and is a supporter of both Christian schooling and home schooling. His latest book, The Forgotten Factor of History God Rules, is being printed in February or March of 2016. His email address is [email protected]
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