OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANTS, Part 1
December 13, 2019
Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!
After weeks of making reference to this series which deals with the foundations of our nation, we're actually going to begin with it today.
You will see, as this series unfolds, that every single one of the 50 states in our union recognizes that their existence, as a body politick, flows from God. The rejection of this principle by modern politicians is a huge contributing factor in the chaos which has unfolded since prayer was removed from public schools, and gradually from public discourse.
The acceptance, and even injection, of such things as “Shariah Law” in certain places is a violation of our nation’s foundations, not to mention the Constitution that our forefathers created, lived and died for. What our politicians have refused to recognize or understand is the fact that Islam is not a religion: it is a political philosophy with world domination at its underpinnings, using religion as an excuse for its philosophy.
Let’s not go there today. Instead, let’s get on with our discussion concerning America’s foundations.
From the earliest days of our nation's founding fathers, people came to these shores to escape religious persecution and to create an environment in which there would be the freedom to worship God -- and quite specifically, the Lord Jesus Christ -- according to the dictates of each person's heart.
No other nation on earth has such foundations. America, as a result, has prospered like no other nation on earth. America has seen and experienced the blessings of the Lord in a dimension that has made it the envy of virtually every nation on earth. It is in this nation that creativity has blossomed, inventions have sprung up and industry has taken hold creating an economic backbone which provides the lowest rate of unemployment anywhere in the world.
There are reasons for this. And those reasons are the theme of this series: The American Covenant. We've spent weeks discussing the meaning and significance of covenant, and how different our contemporary understanding of this word is. The whole concept of covenant has been pretty much lost in our modern society. We use the word loosely to apply to marriage without a real understanding of how deep it goes, and lawyers and legal experts today bandy the word about, but with little reference as to the significance of covenant.
Quickly restated, a covenant is a life and death agreement between two or more parties in which the parties give themselves wholly to the performance of that to which they agree, with the pain of death as the consequence for failure. On the other hand, the blessing that comes with that covenant is its end purpose. The parties thereto committed themselves, their families and all of their resources to the fulfilling and achieving of the covenant ends.
That said, when those early pilgrims made their decision to board the Mayflower and sail to an unknown land, they all knew they were taking their lives in their hands. The objective to have a land in which they could worship without the persecution of the Anglican Church was an objective fraught with every conceivable danger. Yet to these would-be colonists, the ends more than justified the risks.
If they succeeded, they would have a place where they would be free to worship the Lord Jesus Christ without someone looking over their shoulder and dictating their doctrines, their methods of worship or anything else. Their relationship to the Lord, and their growth spiritually -- they felt -- hung in the balance. 102 people representing some 40 families with different church backgrounds came together in 1620, boarding a boat, the Mayflower, more suited to a museum than being a seaworthy vessel.
It came about, therefore, that on November 11, 1620, upon landing on American shores, 40 heads of families gathered together at Cape Cod and signed the following document:
Mayflower Compact 1620
the Settlers at New Plymouth: 1620
IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.
Mr. John Carver
You'll notice the phrase in which they say, "[we] solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick..." Think these folks understood the meaning of covenant? Better believe it!
Just a few years later, an English church leader by the name of Roger Williams became linked to the Puritan movement advocating separation from the episcopal form of hierarchical government and embracing instead the direct involvement of congregations or bodies of believers in the choice of their leaders and those tenets of faith which they all agreed to.
The Puritan movement was deeply persecuted and hated by the traditional leadership of the Church of England, and by all those who advocated hierarchical church government since their movement rendered hierarchical offices as both non-Scriptural and non-essential to the body of Christ.
Although Roger Williams was a Calvinist by teaching and upbringing (and one of John Calvin's teachings held that the state was subject to the church) he migrated to the Massachusetts Colony in 1631, eleven years after the Mayflower colonists had arrived, with the objective of finding a place where the persecuted Puritans could migrate and worship the Lord as they pleased.
He soon ran afoul of the Massachusetts Bay Colony leaders when he declared that they had neither right nor authority to impose uniform faith and worship among the colonists. He further denied the right of the Massachusetts General Court to punish religious infractions.
In 1634, just four years after arriving on American shores, Roger Williams found himself banished by the Massachusetts General Court and facing a deportation order back to England. He escaped and lived among the Narragansett Indians, learning their language, gaining their friendship and trust, and in 1636 purchasing a sizeable piece of land from them for the purpose of establishing both the city of Providence and the colony of Rhode Island.
Providence gained its name from Williams' declaration of thanksgiving to the Lord, "for God's merciful providence unto me in my distress." Despite his indoctrination and personal leanings as a leader in the body of Christ, Roger Williams had arrived at the conclusion that the government of the colony must be established upon a foundation of tolerance for religious differences in the way people worshiped the Lord God, and complete separation between civil government and that of the various churches.
This policy enabled the Society of Friends (Quakers) to escape the bigotry that had surrounded their existence in Massachusetts Bay Colony, along with the very first Baptists who made the fledgling Rhode Island Colony their home base in the New World.
In 1639, Roger Williams was baptized by immersion and named pastor of the first Baptist church in America. Less than a year later, he chose to withdraw from his association with the Baptists, calling himself instead "a Seeker" (one who continues to seek after more truth in the Gospel) rather than allying himself with a specific set of doctrines and tenets.
What makes Roger Williams stand out in our nation's history and founding is the fact that his 1651 charter of rights for Rhode Island became the basis for the first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson's famous (and horribly misused and applied by the FDR Supreme Court) comment to the Danbury Baptist Association, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State" was drawn from the model established by Roger Williams.
I guess I never cease to be amazed at the number of Christians -- even in these politically turbulent times -- whose ignorance of this nation's foundations and Jesus' command (in the parable of the ten pounds or talents -- see Luke 19:13) to "Occupy till I come" holds them captive to a doctrine of demons that says that Christians have no business in politics, or the affairs of government.
Before I continue, let's take a look at that command from the Lord and see what He actually was saying.
That word "occupy" comes from a translation of the Greek, ðñáãìáôåýïìáé pragmateuomai: which is derived from ðñOãìá pragma, which in turn is drawn from ðñÜóóù prasso. Each of these words draws a picture.
That root word, prasso, has several applications: to perform repeatedly, to execute and accomplish (business transactions); and more specifically, to collect (such as dues or fees), to exact or require (rules or order).
Pragma, therefore, represents the doing of business, conducting the affairs (of the people), being involved in material matters. Thayer's Greek Lexicon tells us that this word is often used throughout the NT in a forensic or legal sense, dealing with matters of law.
It's derivative, pragmateuomai, (J. H. Thayer tells us) means literally to carry on the business of trading and banking. No set of words better illustrates the picture of politics (Microsoft's Encarta tells us that this word means "the processes by which people and institutions exercise or resist power.")
[Sorry to get so technical with you in explaining the Greek, but we absolutely have to understand our responsibilities as believers when it comes to government.]
Taken to their logical extension, it is impossible to separate matters of government from what Jesus commanded. Jesus wasn't simply instructing His followers to engage in trade with one another, He was instructing them to literally become the governing force in society, to be the bankers, the businessmen (and women), those who established the rules of society, those who established the rules by which society could function and engage in commerce.
Next week, we'll pick up from this point and in the days to come take a systematic look at the progression of increasing religious liberty that ultimately became the backbone by which our nation's Constitution was formed.
Faith puts us on an operational basis with
God, and gives us the ability to function in concert with Him.
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Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
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