Take Up Your Cross

by Dr. Ken Matto

(Mat 16:24 KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Thanksgiving Day here in the USA goes back all the way to the Pilgrims who had invited the local Indians for a time of feasting. If you recall the early history of the Pilgrims, about 50% of them had died in the first winter at Plymouth. I had the privilege of being there in 1989 and was able to walk the Pilgrim Path. The Path led through the town and by all the historic sites. The oldest house in America is there called the Richard Sparrow House which was built in 1640. There is the Jennie Grist Mill from 1636. I walked up Burial Hill where many of the Pilgrims were buried. The first Governor William Bradford is buried there along with many of the other Pilgrims. I am taking this one from memory. There is a section called “Coles Hill” which overlooks the harbor and it is the burial place of many of the Pilgrims, however, these graves are unmarked since the colony leaders did not want to give their enemies any clue as to the amount of people which died in the first winter.

There is a huge sarcophagus on top of that hill which contains the bones of many of the pilgrims. Sometimes a human bone works its way to the surface around the area of the hill since it does contain the bodies of probably about 50 people. Since they have been buried there for almost 400 years, maybe without coffins for lack of wood, the bones could work their way to the top of the ground simply by underground insects or as the trees and grass grow in spring to fall and the new growth may catch a bone and bring it to the top. When this happens, they call the Park Ranger and they open the Sarcophagus and place the bone inside. Plymouth is such a spiritually historical place, I would recommend that Christian parents take their children there to see this place and to relive the reality of what the Pilgrims endured.

One of the earliest friends of the Pilgrims was Squanto who taught and helped the Pilgrims farm the land so there would be a harvest. It was Squanto who also helped relations between Chief Massasoit and the Pilgrims. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated for 3 days and the abundance of food was amazing.

The following account was given by Edward Winslow of the First Thanksgiving Feast.

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

The Pilgrims had made it to the shore of Plymouth on or about November 11, 1620 but since they could not go out on to the Land, they therefore authored what came to be known as the Mayflower Compact. When this Compact was finished, they disembarked in December and began to live on the land because they now had a written law. This winter was a very harsh winter which resulted in half of them losing their life. 41 signed the Compact, and of that 41, 37 were separatists who had fled England to come to the new world in search of religious freedom.

"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."

Thanksgiving is not only a great time to give thanks to God for all He has given us, but it is also a time to reflect where we are in our Christian walk. These Pilgrims had left England and settled in the Netherlands where they were welcomed and they lived exemplary Christian lives. They wanted to escape the religious persecution they were receiving at the hand of the established church of England, so they decided to leave for the new world in search of religious freedom. They wanted to worship God without the cloak of religion. The Pilgrims brought the Geneva Bible with them to America. The Geneva Bible of 1565 was the forerunner of our King James Bible. When we look at the boldness of the Pilgrims, called “Separatists” and the fact that they gave everything up for the desire to worship God in truth, many of us could hang our head in shame for the shamefully lazy lives we lead.

These Christians took up their cross and went to the new world to establish a colony to advance the Christian faith. This move caused half of them to lose their lives and all of them to lose their comfortable homes in England. They chose to deny themselves and take up their cross for the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not come here to build financial empires or to build great factories, but came simply to worship God. Today’s true Christians in America are heirs of the Reformation and the Pilgrims. What Martin Luther started went throughout all of Europe and what the Pilgrims started, went throughout all the United States. If it wasn’t for true Christianity, the United States would be a nation just like any other one. If the Pilgrims did not come with a desire to advance the Christian Faith, we could be another impoverished Roman Catholic saturated nation or we can be a nation steeped in Islam stuck in the seventh century lifestyle. God allowed America to become great simply because it became the world’s breadbasket of salvation. It is from America that the world hears the Gospel and has been sending missionaries forth from our shores for over 300 years, and it has not stopped yet. American Christians saturate the air waves, the Internet, Shortwave in sending forth the Gospel.

Whenever we give a tract or send forth the Gospel, we are continuing to fulfill the main tenet of the Mayflower Compact. For 383 years, the Mayflower Compact has been the “law of the land” for the true Christian, in advancing the Christian Faith. I hope on this Thanksgiving Day we reflect on the great beginning we had in this country in 1620 and that as Christians we will pledge a Godly ending to it on the last day. Let us be as Nehemiah when he was building the wall. (Neh 6:3 KJV) And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Let us not be derailed in our Christian walk and keep our eyes on the prize. (Phil 3:14 KJV) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!  (11/27/03)