My Favorite Holiday
There is no holiday that creates in me the same unadulterated joy as Thanksgiving. Christmas is overwhelmed with materialism and inseparably mixed with God-like Santa Clause and the history of paganism. Easter is on the correct weekend, but is corrupted with an equal dose of heathen worship. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, possesses a rich and pure heritage.
The Pilgrims: Separatists
As Separatists, the Pilgrims wanted the freedom to worship Christ as prescribed in the Bible alone—sola Scriptura. The Pilgrims rejected the traditions and rule of the Church of England. Only Christ should rule in His church, and the church should retain the purity found in the Scripture.
102 from Scrooby Voyage Aboard the Mayflower
One hundred and two courageous men, women, and children of the Scrooby congregation voyaged across the treacherous Atlantic aboard the Mayflower in hope of settling a new world that would more perfectly reflect the glory of Christ and permit the advancement of the gospel. Among them was Elder William Brewster their preacher, after whom is named the islands of Boston Harbor.
William Bradford: Leader and Historian
William Bradford was another Pilgrim leader. Bradford is considered the first to call for an official day of thanksgiving and praising God for the fall harvest and His providential care. He was also the principal architect of the Mayflower Compact and authored Of Plymouth Plantation. The Mayflower Compact was signed on November 11, 1620, almost exactly 391 years ago today. It is the grandfather document of our U.S. Constitution. Of Plymouth Plantation records our best account of the early Pilgrims, their purpose, and their sufferings. Consider this quote from Of Plymouth Plantation which retains the older English spelling.
“[B]y the travell & diligence of some godly & zealous preachers, & Gods blessing on their labours, . . . many became inlightened by ye word of God, and had their ignorance & sins discovered unto them, and begane by his grace to reforme their lives, . . . the worke of God was no sooner manifest in them, but presently they were both scoffed and scorned by the prophane multitude . . . [of the town of Scrooby, England]. [Years of affliction were endured] . . . till they were occasioned . . . to see further into things by the light of ye word of God. . . . So many therefore of these proffessors as saw ye evill of these things, in thes parts, and whose harts ye Lord had touched wth heavenly Zeale for his trueth, they shooke of this yoake of antichristian bondage, and as ye Lords free people, joyned them selves . . . in ye felowship of ye gospell, to walke in all his wayes, make known or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavours, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.”
In Bradford’s notes, he acknowledged that the parents saw their own children being corrupted by the youth of Holland. Losing their children to the world was an intolerable heartache and shame. They determined that it would be better to risk the perils of ship-born illnesses, bitter winters, and heathen Indians, than to knowingly watch their precious sons and daughters drift from the church of Jesus Christ.
Bradford’s Tombstone Exhortation
The epitaph on William Bradford’s grave shouts to all Christians of America today: “What our forefathers with so much difficulty secured, do not basely relinquish.” What are we willing to suffer in order to retain pure worship, advance the gospel, and save our children? May we not be small-hearted nor overlook the slow damage of rot. While some are thankful only for our enabled gluttony, let us be thankful for enlightenment in God’s Word and our conviction to advance His truth, just as the Separatist Pilgrims.
Thankful for Thanksgiving
Our ability to celebrate Thanksgiving is because of the kind providence of God upon the courage of William Bradford and others. May our thanksgiving mature into emulation.