The Christian Covenant of Plymouth Rock

North America was dedicated to Jesus Christ when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.  That covenant with Jesus Christ endures today.  God will not forget when we hold to His promises.

December 21, 1620, is an important date for Christian prayer intercessors.  This was a solemn covenant sealed in sacrifice of lives, fortunes, and in the deaths of the first Winter.  The dedication to Jesus Christ was intended for the blessing of all the continent’s inhabitants.  The Pilgrims – unlike many settlers who followed – came to these shores partly to evangelize the natives, with a determination to love and befriend them.

There are many dates revolve around the 400th year anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower carrying the Christian Pilgrims to the Cape Cod region. 

The Mayflower arrived severely off-course on November 9, 1620.   Realizing they were not under the King’s jurisdiction, the non-religious Strangers among them threatened to abandon the expedition and go their own way.  On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower Compact was worked out and signed.  It was a foundational document of self-governance.  But the task of searching for a suitable place to land and start building was just beginning.

It was not until December 21, 1620, when the row boats pulled ashore at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.   The boats were dragged alongside Plymouth Rock so the women could step off.  But as a matter of oral history, the Pilgrims also used Plymouth Rock as a Christian altar. 

We know for certain from Governor William Bradford’s massive historical diary that the Pilgrims dedicated the continent to Christ, for the spread of the gospel, and to demonstrate a city set on a hill for the world.  It is believed that that eternal covenant with God was offered actually on Plymouth Rock as a make-shift, natural altar.  (Arriving in a New England Winter, the Pilgrims barely had enough supplies or resources to do more than use whatever was available.)

My parents researched the Pilgrims and wrote the book “In the Footprints of the Pilgrims: a Fresh Look at the Mayflower Story.”   Dr. James and Barbara Joan Moseley sought to discover who the Pilgrims were before they boarded the two ships sailing to the New World. 

They researched the Separatist congregations from Scrooby, Gainsborough, and Sturton-le-Steeple in England.  They literally retraced their paths, hence the name of their book.   

I joined them on one trip.  We explored where the Pilgrims lived in Holland, near Leiden.  We stood on the quay at Delftshaven where The Speedwell departed on July 21, 1620.  Four days later, the Speedwell carrying the Pilgrims’ leaders joined the Mayflower in Southampton, England.  The two ships were scheduled to cross the Atlantic during the calmer summer months.

Today, people often have mortgages.  But back then most people could only mortgage themselves.  Investors demanded that the Pilgrims sell themselves into indentured servitude for seven years, working 6 days a week for the investors.  These negotiations hit snags, including that the Sabbath should be a day of rest and the congregation would need at least one day of work for their own sustenance.  The investors insisted on adding non-religious craftsmen and guards, whom the Pilgrims called ‘Strangers.’

Finally, on August 5, 1620, the Speedwell and Mayflower sailed from Southampton, past the Isle of Wight, and Westward out through the English Channel. But after four days of beating against unfavorable winds, the Speedwell developed severe leaks.  Tragically, the Speedwell had been ‘improved’ with a larger main mast and sail.  The ship’s frame, however, could not bear the greater power.  The Speedwell was sinking.

The ships put into Dartmouth for repairs, then again sailed West.  At sea, the leaks reappeared.  The expedition set in at Plymouth.  The Speedwell could not be repaired.  This was tragic because in the New World it was to help explore the coast and feed the colony and repay investors by fishing, hunting and trapping.  Many supplies had to be left behind and members of the expedition turned back.  But the adventurers were so touched by the warm hospitality that in their honor they named their settlement in the New World Plymouth.

Now alone, the Mayflower set out on September 6, 1620, dangerously late in the year for the treacherous North Atlantic.  The ten week voyage – that should have taken six – was unimaginably terrifying.  The Pilgrims were jammed below decks during the constant pounding from violent waves of powerful storms.  Just eating seemed impossible.

On September 27 there was a loud crack. The bowsprit of the ship had buried itself in a very large wave and the stress cracked a heavy beam supporting the main deck. It was possible that they all might sink to a watery grave. The beam was fixed using what is said to have been the screw of a printing press but probably a tool for raising roofs.

At (New) Plymouth, they began building homes, starting with the church / meeting hall.  But this was now into the end of December in New England’s bitter Winters.  Illness quickly crippled the group.  The desperately sick sheltered in the Mayflower and the meeting hall.  The Mayflower had been scheduled to depart, but Captain Christopher Jones could not muster enough crew free of illness to man the ship.  Only a few, often teenagers, were well enough to diligently care for the entire company bedridden in misery. 

Ultimately, half of the expedition died that Winter.  Widows and widowers remarried for the sake of children.  The dead were buried unmarked so that the Native Americans would not realize how small their remaining numbers were. 

Still, friendship and diplomacy was an urgent priority, though later trampled by subsequent waves of settlors.  In a meeting of diplomacy, Governor Bradford presented Chief Massasoit his bright red coat as a much-treasured gift.  (No, the Pilgrims did not wear Black clothes.)  New friends celebrated many days together as the first Thanksgiving, including sports and hunting, not just one day. The hard-won friendship unfortunately fell apart over the 50 years as recent arrivals disrespected what the Mayflower band had built.

Although we value our Constitution, it can only give form to the covenant of Plymouth Rock.  This nation belongs to Jesus Christ from its very foundation.  And this was always intended to benefit all human beings of North America.  Just as the Law of Moses could not alter the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, the covenant predominates.

Deuteronomy 7:9  promises:  "Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;"  And in Mark 10: "29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life."  God yet has more blessings for this land that we have still not fully experienced.

Photo credit: Sophia Lai CC BY 4.0

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