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To Go by Love

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Journey to the new lands

I am going to talk about a period of church history from around 1790s to the 1840s a period of 50+ years of Christian history where Christianity exploded in numbers. However, let me ask you a question before we proceed.
What is it that a normal average person, your typical Joe Blow (or even Jane Blow) want each day?
Money?
Friends?
Food?
Religion?
Work?
Future?
No matter what, these are all the things we want, some want more of material things, others want more of spiritual things, others just want to see a better future. However, in essence, it all comes down to one word; ‘Survive’.
When it all comes down to it, we all want to survive, that is the foundational need for all living things on this planet. It’s not a matter of survival of the fittest, but just survive one day at a time.
Some people can get through the day without a worry and others struggle to survive, regardless, whatever the side you’re in, we’re wanting to survive. To live, mostly everything is a means to survival.
We’re going to look at a group of Christians that went through so much hardships in order for their beliefs to survive. Let me share to you a story of one of its members and their inspiration to journey to new lands.

William Bradford

Does anyone know the name William Bradford? Some of you might know him, he was born in Austerfield, South Yorkshire, England and was baptised on the 19 March 1590.
At the age of 12, he was invited by a friend to come hear Reverend Richard Clyfton preach 10 miles away at Nottinghamshire. Rev. Clyfton believed that the Church of England should remove all connections to the Roman Catholic church and build a Christian religion based solely on the Bible. The church was slowly making progress in reforming and making the Bible as its standard.
Then came King James VI and I of Scotland, England and Ireland, most of you know of him, most of you have a copy of his book in your hands or on your phones. That’s correct, this is the king who commissioned the Bible to be translated in the common English language. Although He wasn’t the only one that translated the Bible into the English vernacular, Wycliffe had something to share in the 14th century.
However, the KJV was a more understandable translation for the common folk. So, with this thought we think that King James was a wonderful person. To commission this wonderful translation for the common people. However, it was this same king that would put an end of any church reform and deal harshly to any critics of the Church of England his great-great-grand father had created.
These reformers met in secret to worship but eventually most of them were all caught and brought before courts to be jailed and/or fined for their participation of being ‘disobedient in matters of religion’. It is said the punishment was so severe for some that some Christian reformers were imprisoned and left to starve.
1607, this society of Christian reformers made the difficult decision to leave England for the Dutch Republic in 1607. Bradford followed the group and arrived in the small city of Leiden in 1608 at the age of 18. He left his family and whatever family inheritance for the sake of Jesus and to build a more pure church in a foreign land.

The arduous trip to Americas

By 1617, these group of Christians, strangers to a foreign land and banished by their brethren at their home of birth make the decision to start a colony in the new land; America. Two ships were chartered to these Christian Puritans, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. Each ship carrying a little more than 100 souls set sail for the new world in September 1620 and arrived in November 1620 (in fact, yesterday would mark 402 years of the arrival of these colonists into the new world).
There is a very sad story about this trip to the new land, the story of 4 siblings, Elinor (8 years old), Jasper (7 years old), Richard (5 years old) and Mary (4 years old). They are known as the Mayflower love children, their mother; Katherine More, was married to Samuel in 1611, however Katherine was in love with someone else, Jacob Blakeway, however he wasn’t considered to be of noble blood, like Katherine and Samuel.
Samuel discovered that these 4 children weren’t his own as they did not resemble any likeness of him but of Jacob Blakeway and he charged his wife for adultery. As the the adults were arguing, these children were taken to be under the care of Samuel, but he didn’t want them as he believed they didn’t belong to him. Samuel was disgusted by their presence that he brought them passage to cross the Atlantic.
With no parent or guardian, these children boarded the boat, not knowing where they were going, but to be far far away from their home. Some of the pilgrim’s would take them under their care but the conditions on the boat and especially the disease that ravaged the colony, 3 of the children would die. Richard would survive to adulthood becoming successful in life.
As with this story, it shares to us the risks that were involved for those seeking a new life in a new world. Especially for those that don’t even know what is going on.

A shift in thought

Yet, why make this arduous trip to come to some foreign land? Why go through such sufferings for a religion, for a belief? Why so much sacrifice? Why couldn’t they just compromised and just go with the flow, it would have saved them so much hassle.
It would have been easier and a lot of people wouldn’t have had to suffer, not only for the voyage to the Americas but also leaving England for the Dutch Republic. Sure it would have been easier to just go with the flow and none would have been the wiser, everyone would be happy in their castles drinking tea and eating crumpets as they played cricket in the backyard having a jolly ol’ time. That’s the English way right?
But they didn’t, these Puritans had conviction and faith and it drove their desire for a better world, they knew that to backslide would be a great disservice to the Lord.
Great Controversy Chapter 16—The Pilgrim Fathers

Many earnestly desired to return to the purity and simplicity which characterized the primitive church. They regarded many of the established customs of the English Church as monuments of idolatry, and they could not in conscience unite in her worship.

Great Controversy Chapter 16—The Pilgrim Fathers

It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation.

Although, their conviction and faith brought Christianity to the new world, soon enough they would resort to the old ways of Rome and enforce the obedience to the church and faith in the new colony. History repeats itself and we as humans will always be what we are, sinful in nature. Only Jesus can be our Teacher and Guide and it is through His Word we can better understand love for all.

The eve of doubt - Enlightenment

Eventually the colonies of the new world would amalgamate and gain their independence and form what we know as the United States of America in 1776. This new nation would shape the Christian landscape during this period of Christian history, as liberty was becoming more available to many of the Western countries and kingdoms, the search for truth and Christianity is open to search without bias and interference.
Many church denominations question their position when it came to church and state affairs, seeing where the lines are drawn when it came to church and politics, The Methodist, for example, in a series of conferences in the 1790s, affirmed the proposition that the faithful should submit to the authority of the king.
You see this discussion came up as a result of the French Revolutions that occurred in the late 1700s. Usually, it was considered that people of higher power and prestige were considered to be chosen by God, and by divine rite, they can rule those beneath them. However, the American Revolution inspired the lower classes of France as they saw that even they have the power to topple kings and lords.
So, questions about Christianity and its authority arose, not to decimate it, but to understand it. Remember, the Christian churches controlled the people in a way that made people fear, as a result of these revolutions, the people now question their power through the understanding of Scripture and an understanding of God.
The conflict between religion and the state arose in the new United States, where admirers of the French Revolution, like Thomas Paine (1737–1809), the author of the Rights of Man (1791), and Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States (in office from 1801 to 1809), questioned the truth of the Christian faith.
Paine would write that the Bible was a “book of lies, wickedness and blasphemy; What is it the Bible teaches us? Rapine, cruelty and murder”. This is the view of many atheists and agnostics. If only he could see Jesus for there is no wickedness nor is there blasphemy in all that He does, neither do we see rapine, cruelty or murder in Jesus how Paine’s view would have changed if He would have known Him personally.
Then there is Jefferson, do many of you know about the Jefferson bible? Although it is not called the Jefferson Bible, it is actually called ‘The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth’, pretty much Jefferson cut and pasted sections of the gospels to focus on the teachings of Jesus. Consequently, he removed the miracles, and any mention of the supernatural; this would mean the Resurrection, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.
Napoleon, a well known French ruler, showed to the world that the Pope was not someone who had divine power, but was a mere man and removed Pope Pius VII from his throne and establishing a republic in Rome. This was an age of Enlightenment, an alternative view that questions faith.
How about our good old brother Charles Darwin? Most of us would know his famous work ‘On the Origin of Species’, the foundational theory leading people to believe that we weren’t created but evolved and that we are but a cosmic speck with no purpose to life. What are wonderful theory don’t you think? This theory has caused the deaths and suffering of billions throughout time.

Proclaiming the gospel

But it wasn’t only downhill from here brothers and sisters, just as influencers second guessing their Creator, there were those that was looking to the Creator for hope and guidance. Like a new plant that just sprouting and searching for the light, so it is with Christians to declare to the world the Jesus we worship.
William Wilberforce is an example, a great Christian man who abolished slavery in the UK and did many missionary works in many parts of the world. Giuseppe Mazzini an Italian politician and an activist in the unification of Italy, encouraged that the workingman should turn to God rather than rely on godless revolutionaries in his response to the French Revolution.
But the real change to Christianity was what was happening in the United States. In this period of time, in what we call Great Awakenings occurred, the first one began in 1730s-1740s it was considered to be an Evangelical Revival in England and the First Great Awakening in that swept through the 13 British North American colonies. The focus of this revival was based on salvation encouraging all people regardless of race, gender or status to come to Jesus and find salvation in Him. People who did not have a theology degree or any degree came forward to preach the gospel. People were driven by their conviction and faith encouraging many to seek a new life in Jesus.
The Second Great Awaking occurred in 1790-1840s, here the focus was to counter the Worldly Enlightenment ideas floating around the world and revive and reform the people to look to Jesus. Through this awakening it saw the need for social reform leading to mission societies encouraging temperance and devotion. Movements focusing on the disadvantages of females in society arose to give support. More support was given to African Americans helping them in education and freedom, preachers preached to slave holders and encouraged to love one another regardless of race and status.
However, the most notable movement that was to come out of this Second Great Awakening was the message of the Second Coming of Jesus, here we find the first Adventists as they look forward to return of Jesus Christ on the 22 October 1844. Only to be greatly disappointed when Jesus didn’t arrive. The thought that Jesus would come again was the main event for all the world.
Great Controversy Chapter 20—A Great Religious Awakening

With unspeakable desire those who had received the message watched for the coming of their Saviour. The time when they expected to meet Him was at hand. They approached this hour with a calm solemnity. They rested in sweet communion with God, and earnest of the peace that was to be theirs in the bright hereafter. None who experienced this hope and trust can forget those precious hours of waiting.

Great Controversy Chapter 20—A Great Religious Awakening

The time of expectation passed, and Christ did not appear for the deliverance of His people. Those who with sincere faith and love had looked for their Saviour, experienced a bitter disappointment.

How would that make you feel, knowing that your Saviour that you expected to come didn’t come? That everything you read and believed didn’t come true? It would have been a gut wrenching experience for those expecting Jesus to return. Some Christians fell away, losing hope in their faith, some Christians returned to their old ways but there was a remnant that remained faithful and rather than give up and go home, they returned to the Scriptures and discovered a revelation that would change their understanding of that day.
These Adventists would then preach this gospel that Jesus is coming soon, preparing a people for His soon return. Even though they were wrong before, they were not discouraged to preach this message again but this time, encouraging people to be ready when He does come!
Just like the Puritan pilgrims, through all the obstacles that they faced they did not give up hope or faith. Their conviction made them seek new land, for their freedom. This is what drove them to continue on with their perilous voyage, and even though they would hit a brick wall, they were persistent with their belief that they continued to keep on moving and never fall back, even if the world would try to hold them back.

Are we making progress?

So what about us? What have we learned from the experiences of these pioneers? It is through their faith that we exist what excuse do you have when troubles come your way? And so the most important question should be how are we like those pilgrims? What drives us to face the difficult road ahead? What drives us to survive in this world?
Revelation 3:11–13 NLT
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name. 13 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
The Lord said that He is coming soon and that we are to hold on to what we have! What we have my friends is a one way ticket to salvation. Like the pilgrims we too look forward to a distant country that we have not yet seen before.
Like those pilgrims this world isn’t our home we are just passing through and so we what is this world with all its hardships and pain compared to the home that God is preparing us?
Matthew 6:33 NLT
33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Everything we need in this life comes from the Lord when we seek the Kingdom of God, this should be why we survive and how we strive.
Our conviction and faith knowing that God is preparing a better place for us should be our song and thought should encourage us to proclaim this new hope in others to get on board.
Paul says:
Ephesians 5:1–2 NLT
1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
In what ways are we giving ourselves as a sacrifice for our community? Are we making progress?
Friends, Jesus has everything that we need for yesterday, today and tomorrow. In what way will you go by love and help others know about Jesus?
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