Providential View of History: The Example of the Pilgrims
There are two ways to view history: through the secular lens or through the lens of God. The secular view of history holds the view that man is in control. The opposite view is that God is in control and is actively involved in the lives of men. The latter is often referred to as the providential view of history.
Providence is defined as the care God gives us because he sees the past, the present, and the future. Further, Webster states that within the boundary of providence, man that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Therefore, a providential view of history means that God is actively involved in every aspect of life, telling His story throughout history for His plans and purposes.
As Colossians 1:17 (NASB) says, “He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.” Ephesians 1:7-10 tells us that, “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”
History as His-story
When we view history as His-story, we see that all history is consummated in Jesus Christ. II Thessalonians 1:10 says, “when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” In the words of W.A Criswell, “at the consummation of history, when Jesus descends to complete all his purposes, his ultimate design will be realized: He will be ‘marveled at’ by all who have believed. The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek behind ‘marveled at’ as admirabilis—’admired.’ When he comes on that day to be admired by all who have believed in him.'” John Piper states that “The consummation of history is the admiration of Jesus.”
We read in God’s word that his plan is that all men would know Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:4) Therefore, if we view history as a timeline, we see that God’s story began in the garden of Eden, and His plan that all would know Him existed in abundance here. Man (Adam and Eve) knew the Lord very intimately, and literally walked daily with Him until sin came in, causing a separation between man and God.
The Lord’s plan continued to be for man to know Him intimately, so we see in Scripture that God gave the Law to Moses and the Israelites to show us that so desperate is our condition, that we can never live up to the Law. The Law revealed our need for a Savior (Romans 3:23). When Jesus came, He bridged the gap —the separation— that occurred with sin so we can again have intimacy with Father God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We continue to study the timeline of history and see that the gospel was spread over the Middle East and Asia through Jesus’ disciples and Paul. Eventually, the gospel began to work its way westward.
God’s plan to reach all men required the gospel continue to move west from the Old World, and, in 1620, He used a small group of faithful believers to carry the gospel to the New World. These Pilgrims, as we call them now, had two goals in sailing across the ocean to settle a wild, untamed land. In Of Plymouth Plantation, the journal of Pilgrim William Bradford, we find these two goals eloquently expressed in the Mayflower Compact— “having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”
The Providential view of history reveals to us that God’s plan is being carried out and His purpose that all might know Him is being achieved. With a Providential view of history we see with each forward advance of the gospel, God raised up a leader to carry the gospel forward to those who did not yet know Him. We see that the Pilgrims were raised up to carry the gospel to the New World, and also to sow the seeds for a new form of government, Christian self-government.
The Pilgrims Depart from Holland
When the time came for the Pilgrims to depart from Holland to the New World, the congregation received a letter from their beloved pastor, John Robinson. In this exhortation, Robinson reminds the Pilgrims that, in choosing to leave their native soil, their lands and livings and all their friends, their sacrifice would only bring fruit if they remained united with a common purpose and stood against any opposition that would seek to divide them. Robinson stated: “A fourth thing is carefully to be provided for, that with your employments, which will be common to all of you, you join affections truly bent upon the general good, avoiding, as a deadly plague of your comfort, all retiredness of mind for selfish advantage. Let everyone repress within himself, as so many rebels against the common good, all private partialities, not consistent with the general convenience and as one is careful not to have a new house shaken with any violence before it is well settled and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much more careful, that the house of God, which you are and are to be, be not shaken with unnecessary novelties or other oppositions at the first settling thereof.”
In the final paragraph of his exhortation to the departing Pilgrims, Robinson declared, “Lastly, whereas you are to become a body politic, administering among yourselves civil government, and are furnished with persons of no special eminence above the rest, from whom you will elect some to the office of government, let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as will entirely love and promote the common good, but also in yielding them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations.”
The Pilgrims in the New World
Upon landing in the New World, the brave congregation encountered the vicious New England winter. Those not a part of their congregation began to talk of leaving the congregation behind, primarily because the Mayflower had not landed in the area where their patent was granted. This meant they had no one to formally govern them. Additionally, some threatened mutiny because they did not want to be subjected to government by a common man. The Pilgrims knew that smaller numbers meant they had little chance of survival. Using the wisdom they’d gained from God’s Word, they formed what we now call The Mayflower Compact. Obedient to the Lord and their beloved Pastor Robinson, The Mayflower Compact became the first civil body politic rooted in Christian self-government and ultimately preserved the infant settlement.
These seeds of Christian self-government diligently planted by the Pilgrims bore great fruit, for, during America’s founding period, we see a generation of men and women who were able to reason from the principles of God’s Word. This ability penetrated every area of their lives, to the point that their Biblical worldview enabled them to found the world’s first Christian constitutional republic. This was not a coincidence, but Providence—the direct result of a philosophy, curriculum, and methodology of education that was, at its core, Christian. The home, church, and school were unified both in purpose and practice, thereby producing the revolutionary results that amazed the Old World.
Sadly, this ability to think and reason from the Word of God has deteriorated. American schools today frown on referencing God and have removed our Christian heritage from our textbooks and classrooms. Self-government has also deteriorated both in the individual and in our government. It is only through intentional decision-making on the part of the Christian parent that America’s rich Christian heritage can be bestowed upon the next generation of Americans.
Schools like Dayspring Christian Academy teach students not only the rich Christian heritage they are heirs to, but also the gift of knowing the Word of God. Coupled with the ability to reason from the Word of God, students are taught core principles that serve to develop the Christian character of their Pilgrim ancestors, enabling them to experience true liberty, which comes only from Christian self-government.
As William Bradford, in his journal Of Plymouth Plantation said, “All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both met and overcome with answerable courage. It was granted that the dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. Yea, though they should lose their lives in this action, yet might they have the comfort of knowing that their endeavor was worthy.” Education and character development such as the Pilgrims exemplified come only through intentional choices in raising up a child in the way he should go.
At Dayspring Christian Academy, students are shown examples of Christian men and women of character whom God raised up to fulfill His plans and purposes. Students at Dayspring are challenged to delve deeply into the timeline of Christian history and ultimately arrive at the question of “What is my place in God’s story?”.
If you would like to learn more about a Christian education at Dayspring Christian Academy, please call Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000.