has had a profound influence on America. The following vignettes
are a sampling of key historical events that are largely ignored
Ed Gitre and Dr. J. Calvin Holsinger authored 15 of the following
20 pieces. Gitre, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, graduated
with high honors in history from the University of Michigan and
received his masters degree from Assemblies of God Theological
Seminary in Springfield, Mo. Today he serves as a Chi Alpha minister
at the University of Chicago. Chi Alpha is the Assemblies of God
ministry to American college and university campuses. Holsinger
teaches at Evangel University in Springfield. He received his undergraduate
and masters degrees in history from the University of Pittsburgh
and his doctorate in history from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Dr. Ken Horn and Scott Harrup serve as managing editor and associate
editor of Todays Pentecostal Evangel, respectively.
Dr. Elmer Towns is dean of the School of Religion at Liberty University
in Lynchburg, Va. Individual authorship is noted by the use of the
1620: Pilgrims to
Englands Reformation was a rather messy affair. People there
had never truly been united in worship, even under the powerful
Roman Catholic Church. When Henry VIII severed ties with Rome in
the 1530s to divorce his barren wife, Catherine of Aragon
the floodgates were opened. Conservatives wanted essentially
a pope-less Catholicism. Looking for true reform, however, the radicals
wanted far more.
They wanted to rid the
church of ornate cathedrals, ecclesiastical courts and rigid hierarchy.
They wanted a church established along New Testament lines. Not
only did these radical "Puritans" not get their way, but under Queen
Elizabeths successor, James I, they were told to conform
or else. Shortly after 1600, many left England.
The more-liberal Dutch
welcomed English "Separatists," but life in the lowlands proved
equally inhospitable. Economically, they met with little success.
There was threat of war between Holland and Spain. Most disturbing,
their children, according to William Bradfords History
of Plymouth Plantation, were being "drawne away by evil examples
into extravagante & dangerous courses." They looked to America,
a new Eden in their view, to start afresh. In September 1620, having
negotiated land through the Virginia Trading Company, they set sail
aboard the Mayflower.
Two months later they
landed off course in Cape Cod, which belonged to the
rival Plymouth Company. Some were concerned with this illegality,
while others were not. That disagreement produced a compromise
and one of this countrys most famous documents, the Mayflower
Compact. Together they "solemnly and mutually" covenanted "in
the Presence of God and one another" to form a "civil Body Politick."
It remained the colonys charter until 1691 and served as a
model for others.
It was very difficult to establish stable commonwealths in the wilderness
of North America. Governor George Percy wrote of the years 1609-1611
in Virginia: "Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases
by warres, but for the most part they died of mere famine." The
Pilgrim settlers in New England found the same difficulties. Of
the 100 or so at Plymouth the first year, scarcely 50 were alive
In his Plymouth Plantation,
Governor William Bradford tells of a particularly difficult year.
In the spring of 1621 they planted their crops, but from May to
July there was a drought. It appeared they would face a winter of
starvation. Therefore the governor announced a "solemne day of humilliation
to seek the Lord
in this great distrese."
On that day of prayer,
it remained hot throughout the morning and afternoon. But "toward
evening, it begane to overcast, and shortly after to raine
which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and
other fruits, as was wonderfull to see, and made the Indians astonished
This miraculous good
harvest, according to Governor Bradford, prompted them to set aside
a Day of Thanksgiving and to invite the friendly Indians to join
them in their joy.
To the Pilgrims they
were not holding a harvest festival or a "pumpkin party with Indians,"
or "turkey day." In Bradfords book, he clearly notes, instead,
that it was what the Pilgrims believed to be a miracle from God
that was the basis for this American Thanksgiving Day holiday so
much loved by all Americans.
education in colonial America
A London pamphlet published in 1643 outlined the goal of a recently
established college in the American colonies: "Let every student
be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the
maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ
which is eternally life."
The school was none other
than Harvard College, founded in 1636. That was only a few years
after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritan Harvard
was a "new seminary in the wilderness," a beachhead for Protestant
religion in an untamed land. Roughly 50 percent of its graduates
in the 17th century entered the ministry. The "new seminary" didnt
just produce clergy. Harvards mission was to educate the future
leaders of the church, state, and society all of which were
assumed to be deeply committed to God and godliness. Those same
assumptions governed every other colonial college.
established Yale in 1701 with similar goals. The same goes for Virginia
Anglicans (College of William and Mary, 1693) and the "New Light"
Presbyterians (Princeton, 1748). The church and the academy had
no "wall of separation." Just the opposite. A revival in religion
often meant a revival in education.
"Christ is the only,
the true, the living way of access to God," proclaimed Timothy Dwight,
president of Yale College from 1795 to 1817. In his 1814 "Baccalaureate
Discourse" he went on to say, "Give up yourselves therefore to Him,
with a cordial confidence, and the great work of life is done."
Kings College (Columbia
University) published the following advertisement in 1754: "The
chief Thing that is aimed at in this College is to teach and engage
the Children to know God in Jesus Christ, and to love and serve
him, in all Sobriety, Godliness, and Righteousness of Life, with
a perfect Heart, and a willing Mind."
1739: A British evangelist
and Americas First Great Awakening
George Whitefield was Oxford-educated and, at 22, Anglican-ordained.
He wasnt your typical Anglican, though. A friend of John and
Charles Wesley, he was a "Holy Club" methodist. His sermons were
filled with impassioned pleas to be born again.
Whitefield was at the
center of this countrys First Great Awakening, a spiritual
renewal that swept through the colonies in the 1730s and lasted
into the 1750s. It was actually a cycle of local revivals that started
in New England and rolled southward in successive waves. Jonathan
Edwards perhaps the 18th centurys greatest English-speaking
theologian led in the north; others elsewhere, like Gilbert
Tennent. No revivalist compared to Whitefield, however. Crisscrossing
the colonies and the Atlantic, he preached some 15,000 sermons.
Whitefield became a friend
to another colonial leader, Benjamin Franklin, who had this to say
of the evangelist in his famous autobiography:
"In 1739 arrived among
us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself
remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted
to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike
to him, soon refusd him their pulpits, and he was obligd
to preach in the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denominations
that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation
to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence
of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admird and
respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring
them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was
wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants.
From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemd
as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not
walk thro the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung
in different families of every street."