Thanksgiving is America’s Holiday

William Bradford on the American Pilgrims

Lastly, (and which was not least), a great hope & inward zeall they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way therunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospell of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work…

It was answered, that all great & honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted the dangers were great, but not desperate ; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though their were many of them likly, yet they were not cartaine; it might be sundrie of the things feared might never befale; others by providente care & the use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome. True it was, that such atempts were not to be made and undertaken without good ground and reason; not rashly or lightly as many have done for curiositie or hope of gaine, etc. But their condition was not ordinarie; their ends were good and-honourable; their calling lawfull, & urgente; and therfore they might expecte the blessing of God in their proceding. Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable.
—William Bradford, Governor, Plimouth Colony

These are the words of Governor William Bradford leader of the Pilgrims in America. After extraordinary training under Pastor John Robinson in England and Holland, and with the character of overcoming faith in the face of great persecution, privation and personal loss, they came to the New World with an amazing capacity for self-government. The independent divines of Cambridge University, dived deeply into the doctrines of grace in the Scriptures. They realized and taught that the Bible required the living of the Gospel unto every corner of life, taking nothing of God for granted. They must practice Christianity in all its relational and economic fullness, as well as in anticipation of eternity where they sought a better country.

Thanksgiving, as we know it, is uniquely America’s holiday. At the end of their first year in the New World, the Pilgrims were ragged and death torn. They had lost half their numbers. Communism, forced upon them by their capitalist investors, had deprived them of needed food for the long winter.

By faith, they sought to celebrate God’s providence in bringing them thus far, and in the hope of His future provision through their second long and dreadful winter. Inviting the native leader Massasoyt as their guest, the Pilgrims’ hearts at first sank to see some eighty additional braves in parade. They simply did not have enough food to share with so many. Praise God! Their friends came prepared with ample supplies, including much venison and turkeys, for their three-day, outdoor celebration filled with feasting and sports!

Thus, the first Thanksgiving set the pattern for America’s first holiday, uniquely ours. May your family remember God’s providence this holy-day, with hope for the future. May you also take the time to learn of the magnificent legacy of Christian self-government and liberty of conscience that became the United States of America.—Editor

© 2011

You can see the whole of the Bradford history at Early America’s Digital Archive. You can purchase a slightly abbreviated version as part of the amazing collection of America’s Christian history found at the website of Foundation for American Christian Education, in the book The Christian History of the Constitution—Christian Self-Government or the electronic version.

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