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Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Certainly, each person has their own list of things to be thankful for this time of the year. But, speaking as an American, what can we learn from our heritage that we should all be thankful for? In order to help us answer this question, let us turn to the Pilgrims.
First, the Pilgrims were thankful for religious liberty. Long before the Pilgrims ever came to America, they found themselves being oppressed by both the King of England as well as the Church of England. In America today each person is free to worship God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, and that is worth giving thanks for.
Second, the Pilgrims were thankful for the opportunity to rule themselves. The original charter made out by the Plymouth Council of New England had been created for Manhattan or what they called Northern Virginia at the time. But, the Mayflower had been blown off course up to Cape Cod. When they tried to sail around the cape, the currents were so strong that they nearly wrecked the ship. It was at that point that the Pilgrims resolved to come ashore at Cape Cod. Because they chose to settle in a region which was no longer considered to be part of Northern Virginia, the original charter became void. What they needed was a whole new compact.
The Mayflower Compact was written and signed by the remaining 41 men before anyone came ashore. While the Mayflower Compact retained the original mission of colonizing the northern parts of Virginia, they combined themselves together into a new civil body politic for the purpose of their “better Ordering and Preservation…” In short, they entered into a new kind of covenant, characterized by self-government. Because the passengers aboard the Mayflower had consented to the Mayflower Compact, it was deemed to be even more binding than the original charter. Nevertheless, this new idea of self-government became a sacred principle of the Plymouth Plantation, which eventually inspired Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. In America today we are free and we are no longer ruled by a tyrannical king, and that is worth giving thanks for.
Third, the Pilgrims were thankful for God’s providential care and protection in spite of their treacherous journey. Because of the rough weather, the Pilgrim’s three week journey had been turned into a journey lasting sixty-six days. Because of the way the ship got tossed about on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mayflower traveled at a rate of only two nautical miles per hour. At one point during the journey, the weather became so stormy and the winds so rough that the crew had to lower the sails and allow the wind to take them wherever it wanted. The Pilgrim’s would later explain this phenomenon as God’s providential hand directing their path.
When land was finally sighted on November 9, 1620, William Brewster, a man who had twice eluded arrest by King James, decided to read from the Bible. Brewster read Psalm 100 to the passengers aboard the Mayflower as a prayer of thanksgiving unto God. So, if you are reading this or having it read to you, isn’t that fact alone sufficient evidence of God’s providential care and protection over your life, and isn’t that something worth giving thanks for?