|Strangers and Pilgrims ....||Patrick S. McKay Sr.|
God told Abram to leave his kinsmen and depart out of his father's house. Jacob fled from Esau, Moses from Pharaoh, David from Saul, Elijah from Jezebel, Peter from the Jews, and Paul from Damascus. Throughout the ages men and women, having been persuaded of divine promises, have left their lands, kindred, and possessions to follow God and seek His kingdom. In each case they have "looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). That search and their desire to embrace the uncommon vision has qualified them as inheritors of the faith initiated in the patriarch Abraham. Like him, they become strangers and pilgrims on earth.
The Apostle Paul testified, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Those forsaking the glories of worldly kingdoms have found liberty even when following God into a vast wilderness. All of them testified that the hardships of pilgrimage exceed the riches of nations and that the freedom in Christ liberates even those shackled by oppressive governments.
The modern struggle between liberty and tyranny, as observed by John Adams in his Dessertation On the Cannon and Feudal Law, began with the Reformation. Under its ecclesiastical reform the unholy alliance between priests and kings began to dissolve in what became known as the Period of Enlightenment. Believers became free to worship God as the Bible dictates, instead of how governors decreed. One declaration of independence was made by a colony of pilgrims who separated themselves from the rule of the Church of England. Seeking liberty to worship God according to their own con-science, these pilgrims sailed to Holland. During their first years there they seemed to have discovered their long anticipated refuge. "They grew in knowledge and other gifts and graces of the spirit of God, and lived together in peace and love and holiness and many came unto them from divers parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation." Their success was incomplete. They saw that the influences of the world and their attending enticements besieged their children. Fearing that time and proximity would allow worldliness to thwart their effort to purify the church, they purposed in their hearts to move elsewhere. They sought a wilderness in which they could build a Christian nation unspoiled by earthy influences. They set their sights upon America. "So they left the goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place near twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things but lifted their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country and quieted their spirits."
The faith of Abraham manifest itself in the lives of these wanderers as they left the security of civilization. Like him, they received comforting assurances. Divine rays of inspiration revealed to them that they were instruments in God's hands. Like Abraham, they saw from afar the heavenly city toward which they traveled. During their transatlantic voyage to New England, John Winthrop preached his now famous sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity," where he spoke of their destiny and calling. He said, "The Lord be our God, and delight to dwell among us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when he shall make us a praise and a glory that say of succeeding plantations, 'The Lord make us like New England' for we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."
This divine destiny coalesced in the minds and will of the first colonists. Amid sorrow and deprivation they labored to build a Christian community in the New Land. Gradually, Winthrop's prophecy began coming to pass. In 1640 Peter Bulkey, a prominent New Englander, wrote, "We are as a city set upon a hill, in the open view of all the earth; the eyes of the world are upon us because we profess ourselves to be a people in covenant with God, and therefore not only the Lord our God, with whom we have made covenant, but heaven and earth, angels and men, that are witnesses of our profession, will cry shame upon us, if we walk contrary to the covenant which we have professed and promised to walk in." Similar themes appeared throughout New England reminding her citizens that America's destiny did not depend upon the British Constitution. Instead it was rooted in the special covenant begun with Abraham and manifested by the founding fathers.
These western pilgrims followed the vision which the God of Israel had planted in their hearts. America is to be a city set upon a hill, an example of the covenant way of life. From its discovery by Christopher Columbus, (the Christ-bearer), beyond the Puritan Plantations gleaning and embracing the vision of a nation dedicated and submitted to Christ, through the Revolutionary War in which her liberty was won, and the codification of our Republican form of government in the Constitution with its attendant Bill of Rights safeguarding its divine purpose, God has blessed America. It will yet become a holy nation and fulfill the remainder of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Today there are two Americas competing and conflicting with each other. One is more interested in reviewing, reinterpreting, and redefining morality, religion, social standards, and political convictions. The other is determined to preserve the Christian beliefs and convictions its forefathers embraced. The former seeks the bondage of passion. The latter clings to the liberty of Christ. One is dedicating to eradicating faith and holiness. The other is pledged to protect Christianity and public morality while searching for the city whose builder and maker is God. This second America has seen the promises afar off through the Scriptures, which persuade all believers that the grand design of the God of Israel in this day will come to pass. Until then, they confess that they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, separate from the ways of the world and anxious to flee the worldly city. Relying solely on the provisions God supplies, they wait for the city God has prepared for them.