The Hand of God in History - Chapter 2
By Rev. H. Read, 1847
This fascinating old book is full of historical facts demonstrating the wisdom and sovereignty of God. May you be encouraged by this160-year-old reminder that our Lord is continually working out His eternal plan through the joys and sorrows of life and time. All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose! [Romans 8:28]
Chapter 7: God in Modern Missions (17th & 18th Century)
Some changes have been made to clarify the message and update the language.
Chapter 2: God's Hand in the settlement of America.
By1600, ecclesiastical domination [the social and political power of the institutional church in Europe] had so monopolized and trampled religious freedom, that it seemed vain to expect that Christianity, pure and undefiled, should, on such a soil, flourish.... So God opened an asylum for his oppressed people precisely at the time they needed it.
"I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things." Isaiah 45:6-7
Nothing seemed more probable at one time, than that France would be the wonder of New England. ... As early as 1605, De Mont "explored and claimed for France, the rivers, the coasts and bays of New England." But God's decree had gone out that Rome's religious hierarchy should not rule this territory, so France failed to gain its coveted foothold.
Thrice in the following year was the attempt renewed, and twice were they driven back by adverse winds, and the third time wrecked at sea. Again did Pourtrincourt attempt the same enterprise, but was, in like manner compelled to abandon the project. This was a land which God would give to the people of His own choice.
At a still later period, a French armament of forty ships of war, under the Duke D’Anville, was destined for the destruction of New England. It sailed from Chebucto, in Nova Scotia, for this purpose. In the meantime, the pious people, apprised of their danger, had appointed a day of fasting and prayer, to be observed in all the churches. While Mr. Prince was officiating in Old South Church, Boston, on this fast day, and praying most fervently that the dreaded calamity might be averted, a sudden gust of wind arose (the day, till then, had been perfectly clear,) so violently, as to cause the clattering of the windows.
The reverend gentleman paused in his prayer, and looking around on the congregation with a countenance of hope, he again commenced, and with great devotional ardor, supplicated the Almighty to cause that wind to frustrate the object of their enemies. A tempest ensued, in which the greater part of the French fleet was wrecked. The duke and his principal general committed suicide — many died with disease, and thousands -- drowned. A small remnant returned to France, without health and spiritless, and the enterprise was abandoned forever.
It is worthy of remark, how God made room for his people before he brought them here. He drove out the heathen before them. A pestilence raged just before the arrival of the Pilgrims, which swept off vast numbers of the Indians. And the newly arrived were preserved from absolute starvation by the very corn which the Indians had buried for their winter’s provisions.
And here we may note another providence: none but Puritan feet should tread this virgin soil, and occupy the portion God had chosen for his own heritage. Before the arrival of the Pilgrims, a grant had been given and a colony established in New England, called new Plymouth.
But this did not prosper. A new and modified patent was then granted to Lord Lenox and the Marquis of Buckingham. But no permanent settlement was made. The hierarchy of England should not have the possession. They to whom the Court of Heaven had granted
it, had not yet come. It was reserved for Pilgrims and godly Puritans. Here it should be nurtured, in the cradle of hardships, and perils from the savages, and from the wilderness, and sufferings manifold and grievous, a spirit which should nerve the moral muscles of the soul, and rear up a soldiery of the cross made of sturdier stuff.
"Had New England," said a historian of those times, “been colonized immediately on the discovery of the American continent, the old English institutions would nave been planted under the powerful influence of the Roman Catholic religion. " Had the settlement been made under Elizabeth, it would have preceded the spreading influence of the reformation. Instead, God's timing was flawless. When the Pilgrims arrived, they came as exiles, taught by God, disciplined by misfortune, trained in endurance, seekers of freedom, and bound by no code but that which was imposed by God....
Other attempted communities failed. The first settlement of several colonies — especially one in Massachusetts and another in Virginia (See Jamestown) were attempts to introduce the institutions of the old world. All such attempts were abortive. Providence had decreed this should be the land of freedom. Colonies that were not founded on such principles met with disaster or failed to prosper until leavened with the truth and faith. Providence clearly designed this land to a witness of His grace and sufficiency. Faith and obedience to His moral law would distinguished America from other nations.
"God, who made the world and everything in it... is Lord of heaven and earth.... He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times. ... [I]in Him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:23-26, 28
The character of the first colonists. God had been preparing the ingredients for a free and faithful nation for nearly three centuries. Wycliffe was the father of the Puritans; and from him followed a succession of dauntless advocates for the emancipation of the human mind from the power of religious despotism. The mighty spirits that rose at the time of the reformation were but the pupils of their predecessors. The principles so boldly proclaimed by Luther, and so logically sustained by Calvin, were the teachings of John Huss and Jerome....
Those faithful pilgrims braved incredible dangers, endured sacrifices that seemed unbearable, and willingly gave their lives -- confident that their ultimate home was heaven. They were God's chosen ambassadors, sent to prepare a new and wider field for the display of God's work and wisdom.
Europe had been sifted, and much of her finest wheat taken to sow in American soil. Her hills and dales had been ransacked to collect the choice few who would build a new state and plant new churches. Should we not, then, indulge the hope that God has still greater purposes to fulfill in connection with this country?
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations...." Psalm 46:10
Chapter 7: God in Modern Missions (18th Century)
The Moravians & Count Zinzendorf
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