Pilgrims and their children

I was reading Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick recently. We hear a lot about the Pilgrims’ faith and courage that led them first to Holland and then, because they feared the influences on their children, to America.

But the next generation was very different.

By 1660 church membership was so low that ” … as Governor Bradford had complained, the spiritual life of Plymouth had declined to the point that God must one day show his displeasure. … Instead of the afterlife, it was the material rewards of this life that increasingly became the focus of the Pilgrims’ children and grandchildren.” (Mayflower, p.198)

The Pilgrims didn’t really understand the Indians, but they tried. They tried to treat them with respect and worked to live together in peace. Edward Winslow even saved an Indian chief’s life. His son, Josiah, did just the opposite. Among other things, he perverted English law in order to steal land from the Indians. Some innocent Indians were sentenced to death. Indian chiefs were killed. When they had had enough and King Phillip’s War broke out thousands of Indians died. Those who survived the war were sold as slaves to Jamaica – where most of them died.

This terrible part of the story isn’t told very often.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I think we assume that our children will come to faith and have the same values we do.

But it doesn’t just happen. Those Pilgrims were good people who cared about their children. It wasn’t enough. Their example wasn’t enough. Just sitting under the teaching in church wasn’t enough.

It takes a lot of work to prepare a child to go out on their own. We think about helping them learn to cook, balance a checkbook, any number of things like that. It seems to me that we need to do the same thing with faith.

  • They need to understand that faith is important.
  • They need to know that they can’t get by on our faith – they have to have their own.
  • They need to know the truth and then how to use that truth.
  • They need to learn to make godly decisions.
  • They need to know the Bible so well that verses come to mind when they are tempted (like Jesus in the wilderness).

Lord, bless our parenting and touch the hearts of the next generations!

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