Thanksgiving Day as we know it today in America actually had its beginning in England before the 1600’s.
Beginning in 1517 (the year Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany) the Protestant Reformation began. The word Protestant, refers to those individuals who protested the manner in which the Roman Catholic Church operated, and protested the doctrines it taught. This Protestant Reformation continued for many years, and in a sense it still continues today, but in many different forms and against many different enemies. The original Protestant Reformation, which actually began in 1517, spread rapidly throughout the known world. It effected governments and religious organizations everywhere it went. In 1534, the English King Henry the VIII issued the Act of Supremacy, which made the king the head of the national church in England, which in turn greatly weakened the Roman Catholic hold over England. Then in 1558, under Queen Elizabeth I, (Henry the VIIIth’s daughter by Anne Boleyn [1507-1536]) the Church of England became independent.
The Church of England is known as the Anglican Church, and includes many different church groups today to include the Church of Wales, the Church of Ireland, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.
At the time our story begins, the Anglican Church of England had become almost as legalistic, apostate and degenerate as the Roman Catholic Church before it. But also in England there was a group of Protestants who believed that the Bible was the final authority in all manners of life, and that the organized church was not the final authority. These Bible believing Protestants were known as Puritans. They were called Puritans because they desired to purify the Church of England. But even before 1600, some of the Puritans decided that they could not reform the Church of England from within, so they separated from the Church of England and set up congregrations of their own. These people were known as Separatists, because they separated themselves from the apostasy and false doctrine of the organized church. One group of Separatists, under the leadership of William Brewster, held Bible meetings in the village of Scooby. English officials persecuted them, and in 1608 Brewster and his group fled from England and settled in Leiden, Holland.
The Separatists (Puritans) preferred farming over city life, because they were afraid their children would become more Dutch than English. And they also feared that a war would break out between Holland and Spain. They longed to return to their English way of life, yet they wanted to keep their own type of worship, which was based upon the Bible.
Therefore, the new land of America appealed to them, and some English merchants even agreed to finance a trip to America. In July, 1620, Brewster led a group of Separatists (Puritans) back to England. Then in September, 1620, they set sail for America in the Mayflower. The Mayflower sailed alone from Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers, including women and children. It was a very rough journey of 65 days (a little over two months). They had expected to land somewhere within the limits of the original grant of the Virginia Company, but error in navigation led them to the New England region. Adverse winds and shoals off Cape Cod forced the Mayflower to stay north. They dropped anchor in what is now Provincetown Harbor, Massachusetts, inside the tip of Cape Cod on November 21, 1620. (November 11, according to the calendar then in use).
The Puritan leaders were uncertain of their legal position because they were in an area without authority. They also knew they would need discipline among themselves. To solve these problems, the 41 men aboard met and signed the Mayflower Compact, the first agreement for self-government in America. They elected John Carver as their first governor. The Mayflower Compact was the birth of popular constitutional liberty. In the cabin of the Mayflower, humanity pronounced its rights and instituted government on the basis of “just and equal laws for the general good, all for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” The eternal truths they held in their hearts reversed the course of human history and eventually found magnificent expression in the Declaration of Independence.
It should be noted here that the Mayflower Compact had its roots in the Magna Carta, which was a document approved in 1215 and declaring certain rights to the English aristocracy. But the Mayflower Compact went a step further in declaring rights to everyone.
Even though they were tired and weary, they also knew that winter would be setting in and they needed to know about the country they were in. For almost a month, they sailed up and down the coast around the Cape Cod area. They were forced to take refuge on an island in Plymouth Harbor during a blinding snowstorm.
Then on December 21 (Dec 11, by their calendar), 1620, they landed at Plymouth. There they found a stream with clear pure water. They found some cleared land, and a high hill that could be fortified. This was once an Indian Village, but a smallpox plague had killed all of the Indians in 1617. The Puritans decided this would be their new home.
The first year in the new land was extremely difficult for the Puritans. Poor and inadequate food, strenuous work, and changeable weather made the settlers susceptible to sickness. The colony lost almost half its members during that first winter.
On an early spring morning of 1621 an Indian walked into the little village and introduced himself to the startled people as Samoset. Two weeks later he returned with Squanto. These two Indians introduced the Puritans to Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag tribe that controlled all southeastern Massachusetts at that time. Governor Carver and the chief exchanged gifts and arranged a treaty of peace. Shortly afterward, the Mayflower and its crew sailed back to England, leaving the Puritans on their own. Then Governor Carver died, and William Bradford became governor of the colony.
Squanto and his Indian friends taught the Puritans how to catch fish and use them as fertilizer in planting their crops. They planted corn, pumpkins, and beans. They also hunted and fished for food. The bountiful harvest that year led Governor Bradford to declare a celebration. Sometime in the fall of 1621, the Puritans invited their Indian friends to join them in a three-day festival which we now call the first Thanksgiving.
You may be wondering why I am calling the Indians, Indians and not Native Americans. the title “Native American” applies to all individuals who have been born in America. It does not just apply to the Indians. Again we see a misrepresentation of true facts. I am a native American just as truly as anyone else who has been born in this great land. And to apply that title to a select group of Americans is not only unjust, but is also immoral, untrue, and very hypocritical. That is why I do not use the title “Native American” to refer to the American Indians.
Therefore, our government (mainly in the field of education) continually attempts to lift up one race above another. And by singling out individual races of Americans and giving them different and unique names is just another attempt to promote the evils of “multiculturalism” in our society. “Multiculturalism” is described as a way to make Americans more sensitive to the diverse cultural backgrounds of people in this country. In reality, what is being taught under multiculturalism is actually worse than historial revisionism; it’s more than a distortion of facts, it’s an elimination of facts. But without getting into a complete dissertation on multiculturalism, let me just say that multiculturalism corrupts and disunites those who are citizens of the American culture. It does not unite us, nor make anything better. On the contrary, it will destroy us as a nation. With that, I might add, is the purpose of those who promote multiculturalism. The destruction of the United States of America as we know it.
Multiculturalism in our society is as evil as pluralism is in religion. Pluralism teaches that we are to accept all religions regardless of what they teach. There is an increasing hostile trend in this country toward those who do not accept all religions by calling them hate mongers, and divisive people; or people who are not an asset to our society. The Bible clearly teaches that God does not accept all religions. He only accepts those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. This does not mean that we are to be rude or obnoxious to those who are of different religions, but it does not mean that we have to accept or even respect the beliefs of others. We can be courteous, polite, and helpful as fellow citizens, and at the same time refuse to accept or respect another person’s religion. Our great nation was founded on the freedom of religious beliefs. Therefore, we all have the right to believe in the way we personally desire. This also means that we have the right to disagree with others, and we also have the right to speak out against beliefs different from ours. This does not make us hate mongers, or even second class citizens. It simply means that we have the right and the freedom to express our God-given viewpoints under the freedom of speech guaranteed to us by the constitution of the United States. As long as we do not promote violence, or harm to others, we are free to disagree, and speak out against anyone with opposing beliefs.
Some of you may also be wondering why I haven’t used the term “Pilgrim” when discussing the Mayflower, and the Puritan Colony. The term “Pilgrim,” even though it appears in William Bradford’s “History of Plymouth Plantation,” it was not generally used by the Pilgrims to describe themselves; it only came into popular usage in the 1840’s in the wake of a wave of enthusiasm for the settlers of Plymouth. The word “Pilgrim,” which means, “One who journeys to a foreign and distant and strange land,” appears to have been used in the sense that “these Puritan Separatists were pilgrims and strangers coming to a strange land.”
William Bradford has been called “the father of American History” because of his book, “Of Plymouth Plantation.” His story tells the story of the Pilgrims from the time of their persecution in England until 1646. It is the main source of our knowledge of the Pilgrims.
William Bradford, in his writings tells how the weary immigrants, making safe harbor on the desolate shore of Cape Cod, “Fell upon their knees and blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast and furious ocean.” Then in a sermon preached in 1630 on the ship Arbella, bound from Southampton to Boston with Puritan immigrants, John Winthrop, founder of the Massachusetts Bay settlement, reminded his hearers that “The God of Israel is among us…..He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: ‘The Lord make it like that of New England.”
William Bradford and John Winthrop and other men of intense spiritual conviction were representative of the considerable number of 17th century Englishmen unwilling to compromise their spiritual beliefs with the Church of England. Their desire was to build a new home where they could serve the God of the Bible, and raise their children in the same beliefs and lifestyle.
From Governor William Bradford’s decree for the first Thanksgiving Celebration, consisting of three days which were to be set aside for the special purpose of prayer as well as celebration, to the traditional Thanksgiving Day of today has been quite an evolution. However the concept has always remained the same, it is a national day of thankfulness to Almighty God for His bountiful blessings bestowed upon us as a nation, and as a people.
The custom of Thanksgiving Day spread from Plymouth to other New England colonies. During the War for Indpendence (the Revolutionary War), eight special days of thanks were observed for victories and for being delivered from dangers.
On November 26, 1789, Present George Washington issued a general proclamation for a special day of thanks. This is what he said, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of these United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’ Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted to the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficient Author of all the good that was, that is, and that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the single and manifold mercies, and the favorable interposition of his providence, which we experience in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.” (This was taken from the writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscripts Sources by John C. Fitzpatrick; 1745-1799, 39 Vol. Government Printing Office, 1931-1944.)
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November, 1863 as “A day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficient Father.”
Each year afterward for 75 years, the President of the United States formally proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. But then the ugly face of liberalism, humanism, and secularism began to show its destructive force on the public scene. In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set Thanksgivng one week earlier. Reason? He wanted to help business by lengthening the shopping period before Christmas. Congress finally ruled in 1941 that the fourth Thursday of November would be observed as Thanksgiving Day and would be a legal federal holiday.
The point I want to make is this: the original reason for those first Puritan settlers to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day was to give thanks to Almighty God for His goodness, grace and bountiful provision. Today it has become just another government holiday for people to have an excuse to get out of work, and to start their Christmas shopping sooner.
But every Christian should know and realize that the Bible does tell us to set aside time to give thanks to Almighty God for His great and fantastic blessings to each one of us. I Thessalonians 5:16-18; “Be joyful always; Pray continually; GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), the great 19th century pastor and Bible teacher writes, concerning this passage: “I have not always found it easy to practice this duty, this I confess to my shame. When suffering extreme pain some years ago, a brother in Christ said to me, ‘Have you thanked God for this?’ I replied that I desired to be patient, and would be thankful to recover, ‘But,’ said he, ‘In everything give thanks, not after it is over, but while you are still in it, and perhaps when you are enabled to give thanks for the severe pain, it will cease.’ I believe that there was much force in that good advice.”
Ephesians 5:20; “Always be THANKFUL with reference to all things to God even the Father through the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Colossians 2:7; “Having been rooted and having been edified (built up, strengthened) in Him, and having been stabilized by means of Bible doctrine as you have been taught, OVERFLOWING WITH THANKSGIVING.” There is a relationship between your consistent learning and application of Bible doctrine and your attitude of thanksgiving toward God. In other words, maximum knowledge of the Word of God gives you capacity for gratitude.
Colossians 1:10-12; “And we pray that in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit (the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (referring to consistent Bible study) Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and happiness. GIVING THANKS to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
II Corinthians 9:15; “THANKS be to God for His indescribable gift.” God’s indescribable gift is Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. Our Royal High Priest, our King of kings, and Lord of lords. And this verse is found at the end of Paul’s dissertation on financial giving, and thankfulness to those believers who gave to support the work of the Lord.
Psalm 100:4; “Enter into His gates with THANKSGIVING and into His courts with praise. GIVE THANKS to Him, and honor His Person.”
Thanksgiving is to be a function of our prayers. Ephesians 1:16; “I do not cease giving THANKS for you, and I make mention of you in my prayers.”
Colossians 1:3; “We GIVE THANKS to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”
Colossians 4:2; “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it WITH THANKSGIVING.”
Philippians 4:6; “Stop worrying about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God.”
All true thanksgiving is based on the knowledge and application of the Word of God. All true happiness is based on the knowledge and application of the Word of God. Psalm 1:1-3; “Blessed (happy) is the man who does not walk (live his life) in the counsel of the wicked (ungodly) or stand in the way of sinners, (in other words, he does not make unbelievers his best friends, nor does he go out of his way to associate with unbelievers. Even though he is a sinner himself, he is a sinner saved by the grace of God, and a citizen of heaven, and a child of God) or sit in the seat of mockers (the believer is not to stand by and listen to the ungodly mock the truths of the Word of God. He will depart from those who mock the fact of God’s creation, and mock the sacrificial death of our Lord, and mock the reality of His return. The believer takes wiser counsel than the counsel of the ungodly. Who are the ungodly? They include anyone who rejects the teachings of the Word of God. The happy man does not live his life based on the advice or the teachings of the ungodly. In other words, he will not live his life based on the teachings of psychology; nor of humanistic, non-scientific teachings of evolution; nor of the liberal teachings of big government and socialism and welfare. All of these are classified as ungodly and wicked. And the believer who understands the Word of God will not live his life based on these teachings because he has something much higher, and much more noble and reliable to base his life on. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (I want you to notice that the word “law” refers to the Word of God as it was revealed at that time. The word “meditate” does not refer to any type of transcendental meditation, which is evil and Satanic. But it refers to meditating on something that is already in your soul, the Word of God. In other words, meditating on the Word of God is the “delight” of the believer who is positive to God and His plan. Therefore, if the believer takes “delight” in the Word of God, reads it and studies it, and then meditates on what he has read and learned by day, and thinks about it at night before he goes to sleep; He is like a tree planted (not a wild tree, ‘is planted.’) by the streams of water (“streams” is in the plural. This refers to many streams being ready to sustain and feed and supply his need. The rivers of grace provides all our needs. Such as: logistical grace, efficacious grace, super grace, ultra-super grace, dying grace, surpassing grace) which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (not only is his fruit preserved, but his leaf also. In other words, he shall never lose his beauty, nor his fruitfulness). And whatever he does prospers.”
When a believer lives his life according to the Word of God, which means that he will not live according to the teachings of psychology, or public education, or government laws and regulations that conflict with the Word of God. Nor does he search for unbelieving friends and associates, nor does he associate with those who mock the clear teachings of the work and plan of God through Jesus Christ. But he makes his delight, he lives in the truths of the Word of God by day and ponders and mediates on them before he goes to sleep. If he does all this, he will bear much fruit on a continual basis, and whatever he does he will prosper. In other words, God will bless his every move.
Therefore, I challenge you to make a greater effort than you ever have before to be consistent in your learning of the Word of God, in your reading of the Word of God, and in your application of the Word of God. That is your duty, that is to be your life as a believer in Jesus Christ. And if you desire true happiness and true contentment in this life, it can only be obtained through your consistent learning and application of the Word of God in the filling of the Holy Spirit. “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ……” (II Peter 3:18). “Study to show yourself approved to God…..” (II Tim 2:15).
Copyright 1999 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone is allowed to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsover without the author’s written consent.