“And on that day, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, each of you will invite your neighbor to sit with you peacefully under your own grapevine and fig tree.” – Zechariah 3:10 NLT
The ideas of Congregational pastor, John Wise of Ipswich, were the basis of the Declaration of Independence, (See the Birthplace of American Independence, pp. 1964-1966, in The Founders Bible) and Reverend John Robinson laid the biblical foundation for the Mayflower Compact. When you read more about John Robinson you will be deeply moved. What a man of God! (When I get to heaven I can’t wait to introduce myself to him!) Each document in the Declaration was written based upon verses of Scripture. Romans 1:20; 2:15 and Revelation 1:5 helped shape the Declaration and the Mayflower Compact was inspired in part by 1 Kings 4:25 which propounds self-government and by it’s very nature yields peace with “every man under his vein and his fig tree” or as the similar passage from Zechariah indicates above: “each family had its own home and garden.”
John Robinson was the Pilgrim’s pastor while in Holland before they sailed to America. He trained them to think the thoughts of God, and helped them practice the government of God in their homes, churches, and civil compacts. He taught them that truth was to be lived out in everyday life and applied to society around them, especially the biblical role of civil government and the God-ordained jurisdictions placed on it. The enduring legacy of Christian self-government would become the distinguishing mark of the Pilgrim Church and the seeds of religious liberty they would carry with them.
The Pilgrims were Separatists—English dissenters against the Church of England—who came to establish a political commonwealth governed by biblical standards. Under their initial governing document, the Mayflower Compact, (the first government document written in America) they declared that what they had undertaken was for “the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”
On November 11, 1620, on board the Mayflower off the coast of Cape Cod, before they had ever set foot onto the New World, they penned what would become the premiere document of freedom for early America.
The Mayflower Compact opens with: “In the name of God, Amen, we whose names are underwritten…” and it talks about the king. In terms of authority, they defined their rights as coming from God to the people and then delegated to governmental authorities such as the king. In England, it had been God, the king, and then the people. But here we have a new power flow: God, the people, and then the king. Our liberty and our rights are God-given and thus inalienable!
Inalienable (unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor) freedom of religion, which is the most inalienable of all human rights, means religious freedom and that freedom can only come from God therefore, that right cannot be taken away from or given away by anyone else except God.
With every subsequent rendition of laws that the Pilgrims published, they always used the Mayflower Compact as their preamble. This is monumental as a pillar for Christian self-government for they planted into virgin soil the seeds of American democracy that foreshadowed the coming Declaration of Independence that starts with “We the people.”
Little did they know (or perhaps they did have some measure of awareness) that what they had done was unique in the history of the world. They founded a government on a covenant rather that by hereditary title. They created a limited, representative government, accountable to the rule of law and the people.
The triumph of religious liberty that would be put in writing under the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States, and then the Bill of Rights owes much of its origin to our Pilgrim forefathers and the truths found in this document.