Chapter 1 The Search For Spiritual Purpose
The Renaissance and the Reformation
Hakluyt & Purchas and Jamestown & Pocahontas
Pilgrims, Mayflower, and Squanto
VI Great Migration
Colonial Laws & Charters
Puritans & John Calvin
XI Indian Evangelism
Falling Away in NE
XIII Other Colonies
The Renaissance and The Reformation
Why did the settlement of North America take place during the
17'th Century and by Protestant Europeans? The sea-faring
Phoenicians with their Baal-god could have settled in the 9th
Century BCE. The pagan Vikings could have succeeded when Erik's
son Leif attempted colonization around 1000 AD. Sixteenth Century
Roman Catholic Spain could just as easily settled North America
as they did South America.
Some humanists would explain the timing as the inevitable made
possible by theposition in history of the so-called "rebirth
of learning" or the Renaissance. However, on the other hand,
if a providential God was responsible, then North America was
colonized by Protestant Europeans with a Calvinist Reformation
theology at God's designed time in history.
Two great movements have been vying for the hearts of Europe
and Americaduring the last half of the second millennium anno
domini. They are the philosophy of the Renaissance and the
theology of the Reformation.
The Renaissance, which originally intended to glorify God, has
placed man at the center of history and made him the hero of the
world. Through science and art, it is reasoned that man and his
society can be perfected. And that man is basically good and the
enlightened man is able to direct the progress of civilization
because his mind makes him superior to all other creatures in the
At the other pole, the Reformation has placed God as the
center of His universe. As the absolute Lord of His creation, He
has revealed Himself through His Word. The Bible, which was
translated and placed in the hands of the common person, is
considered the final authority on man's relationship to God and
the universe. It states that man is a sinner, and his redemption
is through spotless Lamb of God, His incarnate Son---Jesus Christ.
As these movements grew, the Reformation held the upper hand
during the 17th Century the era of North American colonization.
However, since that time the Renaissance-based ideas have evolved
into a secular humanism type philosophy as Kenneth Clark would
say, "Man the measure of all things." The Reformation
remnant has resided within the pale of fundamental, evangelical
Christianity. These acts are well-described by Francis Schaeffer
in his book How Should We Then Live?
II. Christopher Columbus
In the trans-Atlantic drama of Western exploration, two events
possess the marks of providential touch. The discovery of the New
World by Christopher Columbus for Spain in 1492, and the defeat
of the Spanish Armada by England in 1588 established the course
of American settlement and development.
Christopher Columbus, regardless of whether he was re-discovering
lost knowledge or just confirming that the world was really
round, made the greatest geographic discovery in history. His
voyage to the New World altered the direction of the trade routes
and the course of world leadership. The long-standing Crusades-Marco
Polo route, which brought trade domination to Italy and the
Hanseatic League, was replaced by the ripples of Western European
mariners splashing for what historians have called the Three G's:
gold, gospel, and glory.
As Robert Flood wrote, "Secular historians have
underplayed the greatest single driving force behind the voyage
of Columbus." Columbus saw a sign in his name (Cristoforo or
Christ-bearer) that he was destined to bring Christ across the
sea to men who knew Him not. The only book that he wrote, Book of
Prophecies, reveals his deep conviction that the second coming of
his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would take place in his lifetime.
As a self-taught layman, who was a diligent student of the Holy
Scriptures and of great Bible commentators, Columbus was
motivated by the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to preach the
Gospel to the ends of the earth.
All of Columbus' sailing journals and most of his private
letters are saturated with biblical references and his heart-felt
love for The Lord. The flagship, Santa Maria, was named for the
Virgin Mary, and his ship's sails boldly displayed the red cross
of Calvary. Every morning Columbus held Vesper services which
included the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ava Maria. When
land was sighted on the 33rd day, a number suggesting a divine
blessing, Columbus thankfully knelt and named the island San
Salvador which means Holy Savior.
His homeward cargo included two Indians, who desired Christian
baptism. In his report to Spain's General Treasurer, Columbus
included this testimony: "Therefore let the King and Queen,
our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other
provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ, who granted us so great a victory and such
prosperity. Let processions be made, and sacred feasts be held,
and the temples be adorned with festive boughs - Let Christ
rejoice on earth, as He rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the
salvation of the souls of so many hitherto lost. Let us also
rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on
account of our temporal prosperity of which not only Spain, but
all Christendom will be partakers. Such are the events which I
have briefly described. Farewell. Charles Beard's US history
suggested that the Voyages of Discovery were inspired, when
Constantinople fell "into hands of men who were deadly
enemies of Christian traders." However, the acts of Columbus
and what he did in the sight of His Lord are well chronicled by
Samuel Eliot Morison, Robert Flood, and August Kling.
III The Defeat of the Spanish Armada
The second pivotal maritime event that re-directed the
crossroads to America was the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Philip II, King of Spain and husband of the late Mary Tudor, at
the urging of the Pope sought to regain England for Roman
Catholicism through another matrimonial union. Queen Elizabeth I,
a devout Protestant Christian, said that her only marriage was to
her beloved subjects.
When her famed sea dogs of Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake
pirated the Spanish shipping, Philip planned to send Spain's
foremost seaman Santa Cruz with 556 ships to overthrow Elizabeth
and the Church of England. But when Cruz died, Spain decided on a
commander (Guzman) with no experience and to send an "invincible"
enough Armada of 130 ships and 30,000 men.
Elizabeth was apprised that the Spanish would not invade. She
did not even prepare an army, but she did call on the churches
for prayer. Her bold proclamation about the threat ended with
"We shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of
my God, of my kingdom, and of my people." The Armada
anchored in the English Channel and only waited for a British
force to challenge them.
Historians have explained that the deciding factor in the five-day
battle was the keen strategy by the English. They employed
smaller coastal vessels with long-range broadside bombardments,
and the Spanish favored the Mediterranean method of ramming and
While the Armada rested in Calais, the English made a midnight
raid with eight fire ships. The Spanish fleet attempted to make
an end run around the British Isles. However, a violent storm
separated the two fleets, and strong gales pummeled the Spanish
Armada. The final tally was four ships lost in battle and 59
ships sunk by the weather. The force limped home with widespread
sickness on board. Not one English seaman died in the battle, but
several thousand Spaniards died from shipboard sicknesses.
Conjecture may label these events as a coincidental
circumstance of history. Perhaps it was Mother Nature! One
wonders! Regardless, the event ended Spain's domination of the
Atlantic. It moved England toward undisputed leadership of the
seas. It, also, opened the Atlantic waters for a stream of
Protestant colonists to America.
IV. Hakluyt & Purchas and Jamestown & Pocahontas
The 16th Century experienced exciting expansion by the
European explorers, but a clear vision of purpose did not unify
their motives. While gold, gospel, and glory stimulated some,
others searched for fins, fur, and faith.
The Spanish made only sporadic spiritual impacts on North
America. When Ponce de Leon discovered Florida on Easter Sunday
he wrote his hope "that the name of Christ may be praised
there." Emperor Charles V charged Vasquez de Ayllon, who
explored from Florida to the Chesapeake, that the principal
intent was for the natives to "come to a knowledge thereof
and become Christians and be saved and this is the chief motive."
When Coronado left Dominican friars in the mid continent, one was
martyred and the other two left no report.
Only the great Las Casas seemed to voice a clarion focus on
the Indian's spiritual needs. But he languished that too many
Indians recognized that the Christian god was gold. Too often the
reports were tradegies on both sides. Most of the famed explorers
were lost at sea, or in the wilderness, or at the hand of some
The English also struggled with their direction to discovery.
Ironically when Francis Drake returned from his famous 1573 raid
on Panama with a ballast cargo of Spanish treasure, the Plymouth
congregation was called out of church on a Sunday morning to be
awed by the booty. Nevertheless, Drake did carry Bibles, prayer
books, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs, while pirating around the
After Richard Hakluyt, an Anglican clergyman, visited North
America and at the counsel of Sir Walter Raleigh, he authored A
Discourse on Western Planting in 1584. It was a call to colonize
for evangelism of the Indians.
Hakluyt wrote, "It remains to be thoroughly weighed and
considered by what means and by whom this most godly and
Christian work may be performed of enlarging the glorious gospel
of Christ, and leading of infinite multitudes of these simple
people that are in error into the right and perfect way of
salvation...(He argued from Romans 10..how shall they be saved
without a preacher and how shall they preach unless sent)...Then
it is necessary, for the salvation of those poor people who sat
so long in darkness and in the shadow of death, that preachers
should be sent to them. But by whom should these preachers be
sent? By them no doubt who have taken upon them the protection
and defense of the Christian faith. Now the Kings and Queens of
England have the name Defenders of the Faith. By which title I
think they are not only charged to maintain and patronize the
Faith of Christ, but also to enlarge and advance the same."
Samuel Purchas, a clergyman of the Church of England, had this
world view of Christianity. He was saddened by the behavior of
Englishmen; their profanity, drunkenness, etc. He surveyed the
world as even less Christian, and preached that the future needed
a change of course: "To the glory of God, and to the good of
Finally in 1606 King James I authorized the Virginia Charter
to establish a permanent settlement at Jamestown. This first
document made a clear statement of purpose: "We greatly
commend...so noble a work, which may by the Providence of
Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of His Divine Majesty,
in propagating of Christian religion to such people, as yet live
in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and
Worship of God..."
When the three tiny ships with 144 men anchored, Capt. John
Smith was in charge and one minister Robert Hunt had been sent.
They landed at Cape Henry on April 29, 1607, and erected a wooden
cross that they had carried from England. Next the colonist knelt
down and prayed. Then they celebrated The Last Supper with
Reverend Hunt presiding. The communion rail was made of tree
branches from this new land.
The Virginia colony is remembered for the many failures such
as the Roanoke disaster, the poor location of Jamestown, and the
high death rate throughout the 17th Century. However, the early
spiritual highlights are usually downplayed.
The first recorded Thanksgiving took place in Jamestown in
1610, but it was not an annual event until 1619. Another group
wrote on their arrival that on Dec. 4th "the land of
Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a
Thanksgiving to Almighty God."
Clearly the most attractive story to England and to future
history was Pocahontas. As the daughter of Powhatan, she became
the legendary intercessor for John Smith's life. She was also the
most famous Indian convert to Christianity. In 1613 she was
baptized "Lady Rebeckak," and a painting of the event
still hangs today in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington.
The Jamestown settlement did not earn any prosperity until the
success of their tobacco crops or as it was called "that
stinking weed." The founder of the industry was John Rolfe,
who married Pocahontas. He revealed his motives in a letter to
Governor Thomas Dale by asking permission to marry her. "striving
for the good of this plantation, for the honor of our country,
for the glory of God and Jesus Christ of an unbelieving creature,
It was the first white man-Indian marriage April, 1614. The
next year tobacco exports increased ten-fold. The Rolfe's made a
grand tour to England, which stimulated much interest in Virginia
and a mild interest in Indians missions. All the fashionable
figures of English society including King James desired an
audience with Pocahontas. She was endeared to the English, who
were impressed by her grace and charm. Before she could return to
America in 1618, she died and was buried in St. George's Church
at Gravesend, England.
V. The Pilgrims, The Mayflower, and Squanto
Many colonial stories are dotted with providential
phenomenon's, but the Pilgrim's story is an epic of fortuitous
fate. The events of the Mayflower voyage and the lands of the
Plymouth settlement reach supernatural proportions.
The Mayflower was forced to make the seven week crossing
alone, when their damaged co-ship the Speedwell returned to
England. During the passage on the overcrowded vessel only two
people died. One seaman died, who mocked the Pilgrims, and the
other death was a servant, who refused to drink lemon juice for
Just beyond the halfway point a furious storm cracked the
ship's main-cross beam, and the damage knelled throughout the
ship. The Pilgrims prayed and Capt. Jones hoped their faith would
prevail. They supported the beam with a great iron screw from
William Brewster's printing press.
The vessel had been blow off course, and they arrived Cape Cod
outside the Virginia Company's jurisdiction. They embarked for a
Hudson River destination, but strong head winds forced the ship
back out to the ocean. It was after this dilemma and a day of
prayer that the company drew up the Mayflower Compact. The
document is mainly glorified for its declaration of self
government, but the initial statement clearly shows their
religious intentions: "In the name of God. Amen. We whose
names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign
lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France,
and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc., having undertaken
for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith and
honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony
in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly
and in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine
ourselves together into a civil body politic." After the
winter of the "General Sickness" the Pilgrims learned
of the unusual surroundings that had been prepared for them. They
feared the Roanoke-Jamestown Indian reports, but such was not the
case at Plymouth Plantation.
The previous Plymouth tenants were the Patuxet Indians, who
were notorious for trying to murder every white person, who
landed on the Massachusetts shores. An Algonquin named Samoset
explained that four years earlier a mysterious plague killed
every member of the local tribe. Now, the superstitious Indians
shunned the domain because of the supernatural pestilence. The
land was not only cleared of Indians, but it was avoided by them.
After their "starving time" the Pilgrims met the
Indian Squanto, who greeted them in clear English with a "How
are you brothers in Christ?" He converted to Christianity in
England where he had been taken as a captive slave. After nine
year he hitched a ride back to New England with the famous
Captain John Smith. He arrived six months before the Pilgrims,
but his friends, his family, and his tribe had disappeared.
When the Pilgrims arrived, Squanto became their provider and a
multiple blessing to them. He taught them to live off the land by
planting twenty acres of corn, and to fish and trap for game. He
not only showed them how to be self-sufficient; he, even, helped
negotiate the first American Indian treaty.
Squanto became the close friend and disciple of William
Bradford, the longtime governor of Plymouth. Squanto was forced
to live the remainder of his life on Pilgrim lands, when he was
caught in the lie that the white men had the plague in a box, and
he could unleash it on the Indians. In1624 at Plymouth Squanto
died the final Patuxet Indian and a Christian.
The acts of the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving with the
Indians are better written by others and especially by Marshall
and Manuel in The Light and The Glory.
VI The Great Migration
If the colonial lands were prepared for European transplants,
evenmore unique was the British seed which was shipped to North
America. Between 1500 and 1800 AD there were two periods when a
country with naval power could deliver a people with a spiritual
zeal. Great Britain was available with these two zeniths. The
times were the Great Migration of the 1630's and the Wesley
Revivals of the 1740's.
The political and religious repression of the 1630's was among
the worst of times in English history. Charles I, a despotic and
stubborn Stuart king, dismissed the Parliament. When he called
them back into session after eleven years, he promptly arrested
three leaders. Charles, also, appointed William Laud as Anglican
archbishop. Laud oppressed any Calvinists and tried to dictate
the former Romanism practices within the Church of England.
However, he was beheaded for treason in 1649. To further trouble
the nation a depression occurred in the wool industry.
These conditions left the Puritans with three alternatives:
conform, die, or emigrate. An estimated 50,000 left in the Great
Migration. Some of them were the best English minds, and most of
them chose New England. They swelled their population to about 40,000
by 1645, and probably made the area the highest per capitia of
college graduates in the world. Almost 100 of them were Puritan
ministers, who graduated from Oxford or Cambridge. William
Stoughton's evaluation of the cause for this Great Migration was
"God sifted a whole nation to bring choice grain into the
After the English civil war between the King's royal forces
and Parliament's army under Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, the
King Charles I was found guilty of treason and beheaded. The New
Commonwealth run by Puritans, who sent pleas to America for their
return to a now safe Puritan England. However, they had made
their move and they were Englishmen, who had emigrated to the
VII. Colonial Laws and Charters
Colony after colony followed a similar pattern. They pledged
themselves to a covenant with each other and God. Their writings,
charters, and constitutions disclose a consistent religious
purpose for their foundations.
The settlements during their first century were a series of
intrusions into the seaboard, but few intercultural exchanges
occurred until the 18th Century. Nevertheless, the first five
English colonies emphasized a common desire for a liberty of
Christian worship and an obligation to evangelism.
In Virginia the first charter set a goal "in propagating
of Christian religion." After Pocahontas' conversion a
great, almost forgotten vision happened at Henrico College. The
Virginia legislature petitioned the Virginia Company to establish
a school. One goal was "to civilizing and Christianizing
young Indians" so the school "should also prepare some
of them as missionaries to their own people." Gifts, books,
and buildings started the three-thousand acre college plantation.
But on Good Friday 1622, an Indian attack by Chief Opechancanough
ended the endeavor. Ironically Pocahontas' widower John Rolfe
died in the attack.
In the second colony a great historical account was The
History of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford. It was a
record of how God providentially led in establishing this new
society. Bradford, the 37-year governor, explained why they came
to America: "They cherished a great hope and inward zeal
they had of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways
towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the
kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world."
The first Charter of Massachusetts in 1629 said, "Our
said people...may be so religiously, peaceably, and civilly
governed, as their good life and orderly conversation may win and
incite the natives to the knowledge and obedience of the only
true God and Savior of mankind, and the Christian faith which in
our intention is...the principal end of this plantation."
John Winthrop, leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called for
a Christian lifestyle that would be a witness known as "a
City upon a Hill."
Rhode Island was co-founded by Roger Williams at Providence
and John Clarke at Newport. This first American Baptist community
agreed in 1638 to this: "in the presence of Jehovah...incorporate
in a Body Politic, as He shall help us, will submit our persons,
lives, and estates into our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings
the Lord of Lord."
The first written Constitution in US history was the
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639). The opening paragraph
reads: "Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield..an orderly and
decent government according to God...for ourselves and our
successors..together to maintain and preserve the liberty and
purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess.."
In 1643 New Haven, Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and
Connecticut (all of New England except Rhode Island) joined a
common protection agreement known as the New England
Confederation. The opening line reads: "Whereas we all came
into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim,
namely, to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to
enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace;"
In 1649 the Maryland Colonial Assembly enacted the much called
for, but seldom read Toleration Act. Over half the sixteen
representatives were Roman Catholic and their document said that
any person: "Who shall from henceforth blaspheme God..or
shall deny our Savior Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, or shall
deny the Holy Trinity the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or the
Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the
Unity of the Godhead..shall be punished with death and
confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands."
The document then stated that no person within the province,
who professed belief in Jesus Christ:
"shall henceforth be in any way troubled, molested, or
discountenced for or in respect to his or her religion nor in the
free exercise of thereof, nor any way compelled to the belief or
exercise of any religion against his or her consent."
The idea of toleration was for Christians only and for nothing
but Christian denominations. When the other colonial charters,
documents, and governments are examined the same foundation was
laid. Everything was based on Christianity and Christian
VIII. Colonial Education
These Protestant sojourners, who braved the dangerous Atlantic
crossing considered themselves a peculiar people and equated
their position with Old Testament Israel. Particularly the New
England colonist held to the conviction that they were the modern-day
parallel of a chosen people taking possession of the promised
land. Virginia and Massachusetts was the wilderness. Their
literature alludes to Europe as the house of bondage, and America
as the land of Canaan. They studied the Scriptures daily as a
family, named their children after Biblical people, considered
their daily existence God's providence, and praised Him for all
of it. It was at least a partial theocracy, and Perry Miller, the
great expert on New England wrote, "the Old Testament is
truly omnipresent in American culture into the 19th century."
They even explained the Indians as the so-called Lost Tribes
of Israel. By the mid-17th Century colonial writers had coined
the word "Iewes" by obviously merging Indians and Jews.
The preeminence of the Scriptures in their lives manifested
the need for education and particularly reading. They practiced
the proverb "train up a child in the way he should go and he
will not depart." They wanted biblical principles taught at
home, at church, and at school.
Also, part of their motivation for literacy came from the
Protestant Reformation. The Bible translators and 16th Century
reformers like Calvin, Luther, and others had challenged the
Roman Catholic Church by quoting the Holy Scriptures. Each
Protestant was expected to be Bible literate rather than relying
on the interpretation by a Priest or the Church of Rome. The
believer was expected to search the Word for themselves and to
make a self examination in the light of Scripture.
Consequently, an education system began immediately. The
Puritans on John Winthrop's Arbella ordered "two dussen and
ten" catechisms for the voyage. The first "Latin"
school was established in Boston in 1636 and by 1640 three
grammar or secondary schools existed in New England. Virginia's
earliest school was opened in 1636 through the last will and
testament of Benjamin Symms. By 1671 all the Puritans in New
England had a system of compulsory education. By the close of the
century there were 45 grammar schools in the colonies with half
of them in Massachusetts. Every colony north of the Carolinas had
a grammar school except Rhode Island.
The most famous education ordinance in US history is the 1647
"Common School Law" which was passed by the General
Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is referred to as "the
mother of our school laws" and the earliest general
education act of modern times. It was a mandate to place The
Bible at the center of the curriculum, and it established the
practice of tax supported public schools. The writ clearly stated
the mission of education:
"It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan,
to keep men from a knowledge of the Scriptures...It is therefore
ordered...that every township in this jurisdiction after The Lord
hath increased to 50 households...one qualified school master...teach
all such children..to write and read."
New England was blessed with an abundance of learned men. By
1640 there were 113 university men in New England. Massachusetts
alone had 71 of them. Nearly one-quarter of these erudite men
were trained at Emmanuel College, a division of Cambridge
One of them Ezekiel Cheever became the greatest schoolmaster
of New England. His longevity record spanned a seventy-year
teaching career in four New England communities and the final 38-years
in Boston. His Accidence was the first great colonial textbook
and the only beginning Latin book in the colonies for 40 years.
The greatest textbook that stood as the perpetual cornerstone
of American education for two centuries was the New England
Primer. It was called "the Little Bible of New England."
Printer-bookseller Benjamin Harris was responsible for the first
Primer circa 1687-1690. It was circulated until 1886.
Paul Leicester Ford in his history of The Primer claimed
conservatively that three million copies were printed. Other
estimates run as high as 6-8 million copies. The famous praise
ascribed to the textbook was that "it taught millions to
read and not one to sin."
The Primer featured a prelude: the burning of John Rogers, who
was converted by the English New Testament translator William
Tyndale, and Rogers became the first Protestant martyr under
Bloody Mary's reign. Each Primer included phonic syllables, The
Lord's Prayer, The Apostle's Creed, The Ten Commandments, the
Westminster Shorter Catechism, and a rhymed alphabet with 24
The alphabet was dominated by the Scriptures from A to Z:
A In Adams' Fall B Thy Life to Mend Z Zacheus he did Climb the
Tree We Sinned All This Book Attend His Lord to See
Eventually the alphabet became almost totally Bible based as a
source. One change was: C The Cat doth play, and after slay. It
was changed to: Christ crucify'd, for sinners dy'd.
From early on higher education began to produce American
trained ministers, teachers, and educated laymen. In 1636 John
Harvard, a little known Emmanuel graduate, left his estate and
entire library to a college in his name. Another Emmanuel grad
Henry Dunster was its first tutor and President until 1654.
Dunster resigned because of his Anabaptist conviction that only
the penitent believers should be baptized.
American higher education was born with the same Christian
roots as the governments. The 1642 "Rules and Precepts"
for Harvard College set this goal:
2. "Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly
pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is,
to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life John 17:3 and
therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of
all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only givest
wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to
seek it of him Proverbs 2:3."
The second American college founded was William and Mary in
1693. The English rulers granted this charter:
"Forasmuch as our well-beloved and faithful subjects,
constituting the General Assembly of our colony of Virginia, have
had it in their minds, and have proposed to themselves, to the
end that the Church of Virginia may be furnished with a seminary
of ministers of the gospel, and that the Christian faith may be
propagated amongst the western Indians, to the glory of Almighty
God: to make, found, and establish a certain place of universal,
or perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages and other
good Arts and Sciences..."
When the Episcopalian Pastor James Blair of the famous Bruton
Parish Church knelt before King William, he interceded for a
college because "the people of Virginia had souls to be
saved." Their first President faithfully served for 50 years
at the Williamsburg, Virginia college. Pastor Blair administered
the tobacco-tax financed school from the Wren Building with this
"A seminary of ministers of the gospel and that, the
youth may be piously educated in good letters and manners and
that, the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the Western
Indians, to the glory of Almighty God."
The founders of Yale observed a spiritual decline at Harvard,
and they established another Ivy League school in 1701. They
reiterated the John 17:3 verse from Harvard and added this demand:
"All students shall live religiously, godly, and
blameless lives according to the rules of God's Word, diligently
reading the Holy Scriptures, the foundation of light and truth;
and constantly attend upon all duties of religion, both in public
In fact every Ivy League college except Penn and Cornell was
established primarily to trained clergymen and to evangelize the
IX. Colonial Literature
The literature retained from this era is almost totally
religious. Journals by John Smith, John Winthrop, and William
Bradford chronicled the early history of their colonies. Time has
added interest to the literature as in the case of Bradford's
Plimoth Plantation. His manuscript was not edited until 1856 by
Reverend Dr. John Waddington and that was 206 years after the
last word was written. The first English book was the Bay Psalm
Book by John Eliot, who collaborated with Richard Mather and
The most ambitious writer was Cotton Mather. Magnalia Christi
Americana was a historical and biographical record of the first
three generation in New England. He wrote 450 books, and fourteen
were printed in one year.
The Dairy of Samuel Sewell provides a popular insight into the
Salem Witchcraft trials. Samuel Willard's sermons the Compleat
Body of Divinity were published posthumously in 1726.
Many of the lasting works were written for spiritual growth.
John Cotton's Spiritual Milk for American Babes was a 1646
catechism that was used for more than a century. The New England
Primer was of course the preeminent textbook for two centuries.
The Puritans wrote little imaginative literature. The London
theaters were closed by the Puritans in 1642. The novel and
fiction had hardly started in England, so none could be found in
the colonies. Poetry was the only creative outlet in literature.
The poets who have endured are Anne Bradstreet, Michael
Wigglesworth, and Edward Taylor. Taylor was not published until
1939. After all the Puritans expected logic and reason especially
in the weekly sermons from the pulpit, and they didn't mind if
the entire sermon was read to them even if it was two hours long.
X The Puritans and John Calvin
The dominant force in New England during the first century of
American growth was Puritanism, and the dominant influence on
Puritanism was John Calvin (1509-1564) of Geneva. While the
Puritans desired to remain in the Church of England, they hoped
to "purify" it with Swiss reforms.
The Puritans accepted Calvin's "tulip" theology that
man was a sinner, predestined for heaven or hell, the elect were
atoned by Christ's work on the Cross, desiring grace through the
Holy Spirit, and persevering as converted saints. The Calvinists
exalted the Bible as the infallible rule of faith and life.
They opposed such Roman Catholic practices as Saints' day,
absolution (forgiveness by the priests), the sign of the Cross,
godparents at baptism, kneeling at Communion, the Priest's white
gown, and extravagant church buildings. Like other the other
Protestant churches they rejected the Catholic doctrine of
salvation through their seven sacraments.
The Puritan church wanted a greater emphasis on preaching from
the Scriptures, less formality in worship, and no liturgy. They
also wanted their preachers chosen by their elders. This local
control became known as the Presbyterian or Congregational church
government. They used the Geneva Bible rather than the new "authorized"
King James version of 1611.
They expected long rational sermons that espoused the "priesthood
of all believers," who had direct access to God through the
Holy Spirit. Critics have belittled their "legalism."
But the Calvinist were convinced by the Scriptures that they were
to be a holy people, and that their lives of moral piety and
holiness would show them as "visible saints."
In their daily lives the Puritans practiced the famous
Protestant work ethic which had been changed by the Reformation.
A dedication to one's calling in labor for economic gain was now
considered an ethical duty to the glory of God. It was the
Christian's moral obligation to choose a gainful occupation.
Poverty and idleness were not virtues, and money was not evil,
and usury or lending was now in vogue. Consequently, thrift,
frugality, and saving were encouraged practices. Unemployment was
Divine Providence, God's help or care, became a Puritan
preoccupation. The Calvin doctrine of the elect or predestination
did not always give the saint an assurance of his or her
salvation. But if the church member had a good family, proper
income, lands, and status in the church and the community, then
it must be God's providential blessing, and he must be one of
God's chosen saints. Upward mobility might be a good
justification for one's faith, unless he read the Bible. The
economic result of the Puritan's behavior was great impetus for
How widespread was the Puritan influence? Reformed scholar
Loraine Boettner said that, "the United States became the
brightest pages of all Calvinistic history ...and ...two-thirds
of the colonial population (that declared independence) had been
trained in the school of Calvin."
The dean of Puritan scholars Harvard's Perry Miller said of
the people, who declared independence "all the German,
Swiss, French, Dutch, and Scottish people whose forebearers bore
the "stamp of Geneva" in some sense, 85 or 90 percent
would not be an extravagant estimate."
The unfortunate myth debasing the Puritans is derived from
Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, a book written in 1850. This
inaccurate and harsh portrait is even the highest recommended
book for high school seniors by the 1994 College Board people.
However, a fairer evaluation comes from L. Ethan Ellis in his 40
Million Schoolbooks Can't Be Wrong.
XI. Indian Evangelism
The obvious feature of European emigration to North America
was the religious freedom that was available. However, the
secondary story is their missionary efforts toward the Indians.
Perhaps, the finest Puritan missionary epic was the story of
John Eliot, the "Apostle of the Indians." He learned
the Algonquian language from an Indian named Cockenoe, who had
been captured in the Pequot War of 1637. Within a decade Eliot
was able to fluently preach a 75-minute sermon to the Indians in
their native tongue. His text was Ezekiel 27:9.
During the next thirty years Eliot established 24
congregations with an estimated 11,000 conversions to faith in
Christ. The Algonquians earned the title "the praying
Indians." Eliot arranged clothes, jobs, houses, and land for
them. His teachings included abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.
Another crowning achievement was Eliot's literary zeal in
translating tracts for the Indians. Early on he gave them the Ten
Commandments and The Lord's Prayer in their language. A Catechism
was completed in 1653. A 10-year effort produced the famous Up-Biblum,
the Old and New Testament in the Algonquian language. In 1663 two
hundred leather bound copies were printed on Harvard's Cambridge
Press. They were the first Bibles printed in America.
John Eliot also served the Roxbury church as Pastor for 57-years
until his death in 1690. His evangelistic heart for the Indians
was best expressed in his words, "Pity to the poor Indians,
and desire to make the name of Christ chief in these dark ends of
the earth - and not the rewards of men - were the very first and
chief moves, if I know what did first and chiefly move my heart,
when God was pleased to put upon me that work of preaching to
The far-reaching result of John Eliot's ministry was the SPG,
the first cornerstone of English overseas missions. In 1643
Thomas Shepard and John Wilson published a promotional pamphlet
on Indian conversions called New England's First Fruits. They had
hoped to gain funds for Harvard College and Indian missions.
However, the famous Long Parliament seized the opportunity and
legislated the "Society for Propagation of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ in New England." On July 27, 1649 the SPG
became law until Charles II became king.
A second remarkable ministry to the Indians was the Mayhew
family, who for five generations labored at Martha's Vineyard. In
1631 Thomas Sr. founded a work that continued until Zachariah
Mayhew's 40-year ministry ended in 1806. In 1643 Thomas Mayhew Jr.,
a contemporary of John Eliot, met Hiacoomes, the first of several
hundred converts to Christianity. By the time the family mantle
had passed to the fourth generation, Experience Mayhew reported
that on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket there were 1500 praying
Indians and only two pagans. He sent a prayer request back to
England for their intercession on the matter. Only God knows how
many Indians the Mayhews brought to faith in Christ.
The missionary endeavors toward the Indians received a serious
setback in 1675 when King Philip's War broke out. Some judged the
event to be a divine punishment for the general decline in
spiritual zeal. Others said that the children of the founding
fathers lost the faith like the children of Eli, Samuel, and
XII. Jeremiads: Falling Away in New England
Jeremiads, which warned of a lukewarm faith, began appearing
by the 3rd and 4th generations and calling them to repentance.
Solomon Stoddard, Northhampton pastor for 57 years and
grandfather of Jonathan Edwards, took the clergy to task for the
falling away. Samuel Willard exhorted the laymen for only holding
to a form of godliness. Even Cotton Mather observed the signs of
apostasy in his generation. Michael Wigglesworth lamented the
state of the Puritan's New Israel in his 1662 Day of Doom.
Their departure from the founding faith was exposed by such
conduct as the neglect of family worship, the secular business on
Sabbath days, and the rebellious children who loved drink and
game. The annual day of fasting and humiliation was dropped in
the 1660's. The principal ecclesiastical questions centered
around baptism, church membership, and communion. Should church
membership be approved for the children of godly parents, who had
been baptized as infants? If they showed no visible signs of
regeneration, should they be granted church membership? Without a
conversion experience should they be permitted at the Lord's
Three assemblies manifested the compromising trend which the
Puritans yielded to leniency on these spiritual issues.
First, the Cambridge Synod of 1646-48 produced a statement of
doctrine known as the New England Way. Their platform established
polity for church authority and church membership which became
the basis for Congregationalism. A strict condition for
membership included only the elect and the redeemed, who had a
personal knowledge of salvation. Their personal "upright"
lives and their children's conduct would bear visible evidence of
their position in the body of Christ.
The Massachusetts General Court revised the membership
requirement at the Synod of 1662. Their dual concept of
membership was known as the "Half-Way Covenant." It
permitted children of uncommitted parents to receive baptism.
Either generation would be granted church membership provided
that they were "not scandalous in life." However, they
were excluded from the Lord's Supper and church elections. This
notorious compromise placed moral responsibility as the crux of
their religion rather than spiritual rebirth in Christ. The
Boston Synod of 1679 discussed the need for reform, but the
controversy did not restrain the widespread adoption of the Half-Way
Covenant toward the end of the century.
The third conflict was between the clergy and the merchant
class. Some emotional pulpit preaching centered on their daily
morals and a practical message on such issues as labor, civic
duties, and education. Preachers pointed to wars, epidemics, and
the Edmund Andros' attempted Anglican takeover by the Dominion of
New England, as God's divine punishment for their dwindling piety.
The clergy called for a "rule of the saints" to stay
the backslidden situation.
It seemed that no human authority was secure. When Parliament
deposed King James II in the Bloodless Revolution, the divine
right monarchy was seriously being questioned. Also, the clerical
image was badly damaged by the infamous Salem witchcraft trials
of 1692, and the prestige of the merchant class as "the
elect" was leavening. A confrontation climaxed with the
Brattle Street Church controversy.
A group of Boston merchants led by John Leverett and the
Brattle brothers formed a new church. Their Brattle Street Church
dropped the half-way status and gave full membership and
communicant standing for all, who professed to be Christians.
Every member was given a voice in the call of the minister. Then,
a crushing blow to the clerical faction occurred with the removal
of Harvard President Increase Mather and the Vice President
Samuel Willard. College affairs were being influenced by laymen
from the business world.
Connecticut ministers discerned the Boston decisions with
mistrust and they founded Yale University under the clerical
control of ten ministers as their trustees. In 1708 the Saybrook
Platform affirmed their convictions that the Westminster
Confession was the ensign of their theology. They, also, moved to
a semi-Presbyterian position under the authority of the ministers.
The greatest tension and most remembered notoriety was caused
by the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692. Witch-hunts had happened
in other times and other places. In Europe the hysteria of
witches resulted in the accused being burned, hanged, or drowned.
An estimated half million executions had occurred during the
previous four centuries. During this period ten people were
executed in other Massachusetts towns, but Salem was the most
criticized. They had 150 arrests and twenty executions. Nineteen
were hanged. Fifteen of them were women, and an 80-year old man
was stoned for refusing to testify against his wife.
Cotton Mather, who believed in witches, wrote a defense of the
trials, but denounced the way that they were handled. His father
Increase Mather persuaded the governor to end the trials. In 1697
Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, asked, "God..would pardon
that sin." That year the Massachusett General Court set
aside a day of prayer and fasting to beg a Divine pardon. The
whole episode was small in comparison to Europe, however, it was
still a dark but over-glamorized page in New England history.
The vision of the Bible Commonwealth had been tarnished.
Harvard was no longer the intellectual center. The worldly
Puritans seemed to rule and as Cotton Mather said, "Religion
brought forth prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother."
Nevertheless, the hope for renewal and their cry for revival
would come in the Great Awakening, and Indian evangelism would be
XIII. Other Colonies
In other parts of the American colonies the search for a
spiritual purpose took on different dimensions and problems for
the various nationalities and religious groups.
The first American migration within the colonies for religious
freedom was Roger William's exile to Rhode Island in 1635. He was
separated from Boston over the responsibilities of the church and
the state. In his 1644 and 1652 treatises The Bloody Tenet he
charged the state with the temporal affairs of the civil
government and the church with the spiritual affairs of Christ.
These pioneer principles opposed any action by the state in
coercing any individual's religious behavior. A pamphlet war
ensued with John Cotton and several contemporaries writing on the
issue. Future generations revised it, and called it the doctrine
of separation of church and state.
The colony became a model for religious toleration. As a haven
for other dissenters like Anne Hutchinson and John Clarke, Rhode
Island attracted a diverse number of religious groups. It was the
first American Baptist colony. Also, Quakers, Anglicans,
Congregationalists, and eventually even Jews and Catholics
enjoyed the open door of religious liberty. If there was a
providential plan for America to become a melting pot of
religious and ethnic diversity, then Rhode was the miniature
version of what the Middle Colonies became.
The widest variety of groups settled in the Middle Colonies.
The Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam practiced the same moderation
on religion and acceptance that their homeland did. Eighteen
different languages were spoken there. The Lutherans arrived from
Sweden and settled Delaware. Their famed missionary John
Campanius sought to convert Indians with is translation of
Luther's Catechism. In New Jersey the Puritans settled in the
West and the Quakers stayed in the East. In Maryland the Roman
Catholics sought protection from the Protestants and the English
In 1664 England re-instated her claim to the Hudson River area
by granting the region to the King's brother James the Duke of
York. They called it New York and Anglican churches sprang up
throughout the Middle colonies and even overflowed in the
A new Anglican zeal appeared when Dr. Thomas Bray was
appointed commissary (organizer) to Maryland. He nurtured two
societies: the S.P.C.K. (the Society for the Promotion of
Christian Knowledge), and the new S.P.G. (the Society for
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts). His great influence
was the establishment of 40 libraries from Boston to Charlestown.
A second great work was his concern to evangelize the Indians and
to deal with Negro problems. Anglicanism spread throughout the
Southern colonies, and Dr. Bray even joined Oglethorpe's Georgia
While pluralism characterized the Middle colonies,
Pennsylvania attracted the most varied groups. William Penn, the
pacifist son of a naval hero, used his family inheritance to
found the colony. His theological and governmental policies were
based on his acceptance of Quakerism, the "Society of
Friends." While imprisoned for his faith, he wrote No Cross,
With a charter from King Charles II in 1682, Penn set up his
"Holy Experiment" as the most notable shelter for all
religious and political refugees. In the first of his four "Frames
of Government" Penn wrote, "All persons who profess to
believe Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, shall be capable to
serve this government in any capacity, both legislatively and
executively." He also set a pattern of fair and just
treatment of the Indians by purchasing the land from them.
The Pennsylvania colony was settled by not only the Quakers,
but by the German Lutherans, Calvinists, Mennonites, and Brethren
or Dunkers. In the 18th Century Scotch-Irish Presbyterians,
Anglicans, Amish, Moravians, and Jews enjoyed the welcomed
liberty. Some have suggested Pennsylvania foreshadowed the
nation's destiny by establishing a providential training ground
for all peoples. Their pattern was a melting-pot experiment in
brotherly love for all people under God.
The first court case on religious freedom occurred in 1707. A
Scotch-Irish Presbyterian preacher Francis Makemie was arrested
by the New York Governor Lord Cornbury for preaching without a
license. He won the case, and Cornbury was recalled to England.
Unlike the other nationalities the Scotch-Irish immigrants
stayed with one church The Presbyterian. Although they suffered
from internal struggles, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians grew
rapidly in the 18th Century. The Great Awakening would be greatly
influenced by their leaders.
During the first century of colonial expansion the Southern
colonies experienced a delayed settlement and a later religious
development than the North. It was due partly to a greater
emphasis on the commercial and mercantile pursuits and only mild
interest in the church. The smaller scattered population
attracted fewer ministers and also less European financial
support was sent to the region. By 1700 the only large city was
Charleston with a population of 16,000 in the vicinity and half
of them were slaves.
Carolina was officially a Church of England undertaking, but
it was a fainthearted project until the 18th century. The Quakers
sent the first missionary to the colony. The French Huguenots
came after 1685 and slowly other groups arrived such as the
Baptists and Presbyterians.
The last colony Georgia was a grant to the war veteran General
James Oglethorpe from King George II in 1732. In part the
foundation was laid for the "poor of the kingdom," who
were imprisoned debtors and those persecuted for religion.
Initially Oglethorpe purchased land from the Creek Indians and
refused to admit slaves and rum, but later leaders repealed those
noble goals. Nevertheless, the benevolent effort did receive many
gifts of charity. Georgia was intended to be a buffer colony on
the frontier of Spanish Florida and French Louisiana. The Indians
who crossed the border were seen more as menace than a missionary
The Georgia colony was blessed with some very important
spiritual leaders. Dr. Bray of the SPG set up funds to evangelize
the Negroes. The Wesley brothers John and Charles began their
ministry here in 1736. John testified that his conversion
experience happened through the discipleship of the Moravian
missionary Peter Boehler.
The ambitious dream of the Moravian church for world missions
was encouraged by their Georgia efforts. Count Nicolaus
Zinzendorf sent missionaries to five continents, and even made a
"witnessing trip" to North America and Georgia in 1741.
Another famous name was the "Grand Itinerant" George
Whitefield, the Methodist evangelist of the Great Awakening. His
visit and subsequent donations resulted in the Bethesda orphanage
near Savannah. But for all the illustrious names, the Georgia
colony only had a few local churches to touch the lives of the
A summary of the early Christian influence in North America
would be remiss, if the Spanish and French missionaries outside
the thirteen colonies were not given their just dues. The
Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit priests planted The Cross
wherever the Spanish influence spread. Jesuit Father Kino in
Arizona and Franciscan Father Junipero Serra in California left
important spiritual legacies in the American Southwest.
When LaSalle (Robert Chevalier) claimed all of the lands of
the Mississippi for French King Louis XIV, he placed a cross and
a leaden plate with the French coat of arms, then said, "The
banners of Heaven's King advance, The mystery of the Cross shine
forth." So began the greatest US land claim known as
The French missionaries made huge impacts among the Indians.
Jesuit Father Marquette spoke six Indian languages and may have
been the first European in the Mississippi Valley. Father Allouez
is said to have baptized 10,000 Indians in his lifetime.
XIV. Influential Biographies
The fruits of the faith in our founding fathers grew into a
spiritual heritage for this nation. Their good report through
faith is neglected in our modern textbooks. The evidence of
things not seen is recorded for us today as a glorification of
our forefather's perseverance, good olde Yankee ingenuity,
wisdom, and progress. However, we have so great a cloud of
witnesses, who fixed out roots with an assurance of divine
purpose, that this chapter only highlights the faith and the
contributions of a selected few. Catherine Millard, David Barton,
Gary Demar, and others have recently written with the same
intention to glorify the spiritual achievements in our past.
As a final summary this is a quick thumbnail sketch of some
important biographies from this early colonial period.
Leif Erikson - converted to Christianity in the King of
Norway's court at age 19. The first European to North America
called Vinland circa 1000 AD.
Christopher Columbus - (1451-1506) 4 voyages which opened the
Western Hemisphere to Christianity and European exploration and
Pocahontas - (c.1595-1616) daughter of Powhatan and wife of
John Rolfe. A convert to Christianity, who was baptized Lady
William Bradford (1590-1657) author of the History of Plimoth
Plantation and the governor of the colony for 37 years.
Squanto (??-1623) a Patuxet, English-speaking, Christian
Indian, who befriended Bradford and the Plymouth Colony and was a
reason for the famous Thanksgiving.
John Winthrop (1588-1649) leader of the Puritan's Arabella
fleet to Boston and was the first governor of Massachusetts Bay
Roger Williams (1599-1683) founded Providence, Rhode Island.
Wrote the first Indian lexicon. Wrote the Bloudy Tenant of
John Cotton (1584-1652) called "the Patriarch of New
England" at Boston's First Church. He was involved in Roger
Williams & Anne Hutchinson's exile.
Richard Mather (1596-1669) Dorchester preacher for 30 years
and early Puritan giant, who co-authored the Bay Psalm Book.
Increase Mather (1639-1723) Boston's Second (old North) Church
pastor for 59 years. Also, President of Harvard & leader of
the Middle Era of the Puritans.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728) Pastor of Boston's Second Church for
50 years. A Puritan scholar & most productive writer. Wrote
Magnalia Christi America.
Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) founder of Connecticut and author of
the Fundamental Orders - the first American Constitution.
Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) co-author of First Fruits a
promotion of New England John Eliot (1604-1690) The Apostle to
the Indians and author of Up-Biblum, the Indian translation of
John Campanius - Swedish Lutheran apostle to the Delaware
Indians from 1643-48.
Henry Muhlenberg (1711-1787) Patriarch of the Lutheran Church
James the Duke of York - the peaceful surrender of New York in
1664 to the English.
Francis Makemie (1658-1708) Scotch-Irish missionary &
founder of US Presbyterian Church.
Cecil Calvert (1605-1675) or Lord Baltimore Maryland's Roman
Catholic proprietor for 43 years and noted for the Toleration Act
Thomas Bray (1656-1730) commissary for Maryland, the SPG, and
founder of over 40 colonial libraries for the SPCK.
William Penn (1644-1718) Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, the
"Holy Experiment," a shelter for all Christian groups.
James Blair (1656-1743) first President of William & Mary
and Pastor of the Williamsburg Bruton Parish Church.
James Oglethorpe - founder of the Georgia debtors' colony
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