Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone The First Thanksgiving
Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 2:14 pm
The Messenger, November 25, 2009
By R.B. TOLAR
Special to The Messenger
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16
The more than 20,000 Puritans who migrated to New England in the 1630s brought, along with their Geneva Bibles, the ideal of “gospel holiness.” Their Reformed faith was one of the printed and spoken Word. The Bible was to be expounded upon from the pulpit and studied diligently at home and its tenets observed and put into practice in the everyday life of the believer.
Heeding the biblical injunction to do all things “as to the Lord,” the Puritans viewed all work as a “calling” that glorified God. A middling or “sufficient” level of prosperity resulted from such a work ethic and most of the Puritans had paid their own passage across the Atlantic.
This enabled the migration of whole families rather than mostly single young men as in the other English colonies. Consequently, the population grew quickly despite the horrendous losses from disease and hardship, due more to a rising birth rate rather than continued emigration.
The resulting social stability was enhanced by strong civic participation in local government. The Presbyterian form of church government, with each congregation ruled locally by a group of representative elders, encouraged active involvement as well.
The Puritans came to America to establish a “City on a Hill,” a model of the New Testament church in purity and in practice.
They believed this could only be accomplished by those who deliberately sought to pursue the scriptural mandate to holiness — an active seeking after the mind of God and aligning their own hearts and minds with His good, acceptable and perfect will.
Keeping the Sabbath, for instance, was not merely a two-hour affair on Sunday mornings.
The sermon itself might last two hours, an unthinkable thing in our own day and time! Afterwards, in their homes, fathers would lead their families in a discussion of the sermon and its application to their own lives. In the afternoon, pastors would visit the residences of their flock, using the Westminster Longer and Shorter catechisms to further instruct them in the ways of their faith.
Personal Bible study was an object of serious dedication as each believer examined himself or herself, seeking the assurance of their salvation.
Sermons, diaries and letters passed down from the Puritans reveal the absolute horror of personal sin and the utmost fear and respect (as well as the love and devotion) with which they viewed God.
Such a mindset seems foreign in this age, with all the bright shiny objects we have to distract us.
Yet it is this purposeful consecration of self to the Living God that enabled these quaint folks to survive unbelievable hardship and sorrow, to mold a civilization out of the howling wilderness and to stand against overwhelming odds with the determination to live free or die.
The Puritans risked all to come to these shores and found a “City on a Hill.”
That they succeeded is a testimony to their dedication and the blessing of the God they served.
May we not let the light go out.
Editor’s note: RB Tolar wishes to thank Dr. Dan McDonough at the University of Tennessee at Martin for a new-found appreciation of our Puritan forbearers gained from participation in his course on American Colonial history.
Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone