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On This 400th Anniversary, How Faith Fueled the Pilgrims: 'It Was a Church Plant that Founded New England'

Pilgrims landing on the rocky shores of the New World. (Image credit: Campbell House Museum)

(Originally published on November 25, 2020)

America's Founding Fathers based their shaping of the nation on a foundation laid by the First Fathers.  Some of the most influential were the Pilgrims who arrived in the New World in 1620.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' arrival, and while celebration plans were undermined this year by COVID restrictions, this remains a major milestone.

Paul Jehle of the Plymouth Rock Foundation and also a Pilgrim re-enactor told CBN News earlier this year that they want to emphasize the faith of the Pilgrims, including, "What truly brought them here to the New World, the inspiration they had from the Scriptures and the believers. And most people are unaware of the fact that it was a church plant that founded New England in 1620."

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Jehle pointed out these Pilgrims were fervent disciples, dedicated to the God of Liberty who promised His truth would set them free.

Part of the Reformation Revival
"The first freedom that they really began to be cognizant of was internal liberty, liberty of conscience, freedom from sin. That's why they said God began to reform their lives by His grace," Jehle explained. 

"And this was the most important thing the Pilgrims began with, because they were a remnant as a part of a great revival known as the Reformation. So here they were, at the peak of that revival, and they were very conscious of this," he said.

While God gave them spiritual liberty on the inside, they were persecuted in England and granted no religious liberty on the outside. They saw the potential for enjoying that religious liberty in the New World. 

After storms blew them to the isolated Cape Cod coastline, the Pilgrims had to come up with their own form of government and gave the future America civil liberty in the form of the Mayflower Compact.

Re-Ordering the Lines of Authority: God to the People to the Government

"It was the beginning of self-government here in America: bottom-up liberty," Jehle observed. "When you read the Mayflower Compact, it says 'in the name of God. Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the subjects of the King.'  So, it's God to the People and then to the King."  

Jehle said that order of authority – God over the people, the people over the King – was the order presented for all of America in the Declaration of Independence. It was one gift of many from the Pilgrims.

"Now, of course, the Pilgrims didn't know this at the time, and it's like a seed that would grow over time," Jehle explained. "But there's no question there's a link between some of the things the Pilgrims began to do – whether it's economic liberty, civil liberty, religious liberty, self-rule, Thanksgiving. The idea of giving thanks to God even in the midst of suffering."

'It's a Shame the Pilgrims are Often Just a Footnote'

This Pilgrim re-enactor is sorry more Americans, especially young ones, don't know about how much these early, early settlers contributed to the nation's values, faith, character, and dependence on God.

"It's a shame the Pilgrims are often just a footnote in history books," Jehle lamented. "And so we want to be able to portray it fully from the real faith that brought them here. And the faith that inspired them to do it." 

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