On the Shores of Jordan By William Potter | September 11 2014

Stones of Remembrance

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan dry, shod to begin the conquest of Palestine, God commanded that twelve large stones be piled up at Gilgal so “when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’. . . that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4: 22, 24)

Crossing the Jordan River

Americans, too, have for centuries now, erected memorials to great men and events of renown. Not all men or all events that have been memorialized signify world-changing moments in history. But some do, and few, if any, more so than the Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Puritans of Boston and the minute men and republic-builders of Massachusetts. Their descendants have done more than piled rocks in a field, though plenty of rocks there are, but they have by God’s Grace, preserved the homes, the burial sites, the churches, the battlefields, and the artifacts of those devout sacrificial generations. Unfortunately, when American children today ask “what do these stones mean?” silence reigns or explanations are given that seem to come from a disconnected and alien alternative universe.

God has seen fit to raise up groups such as the Plymouth Rock Foundation, and individual historians in remote classrooms to bear the torch of true remembrance, but there is even more immediate help to understand these amazing historical events and people whom God brought to the shores of New England. You can visit the exact locations, walk on the ground where the founders walked, read their words, and learn the lessons for today with the historians of Landmark Events as we tour Boston and Plymouth. We will appreciate together the verisimilitude of Plimoth Plantation as we go there at Thanksgiving-time, to celebrate the example of God-fearing, and God-thanking that has become part of the very fabric of our nation’s memory and practice.

Cole’s Hill Sarcophagus and Pilgrim Remains

There is even a rock of remembrance on the shoreline of Plymouth, as well as an ossuary holding the bones of those Pilgrim settlers whose lives were taken by disease and starvation the first winter. We answer the questions of why they came, what they believed, and who they were. We visit and expound the lessons on the rebuilt Mayflower, the Forefathers’ Monument and the tribute to the Pilgrim women. We look at the amazing providences of the peaceful Pilgrim relationships with the Wampanoags, contrary to the modern mythical stereotypes taught as self-evident truths today. So significant are the sites and so profound the stories of the Pilgrims, that they are in a real sense, the fathers of Americans of any ethnic derivation. They symbolize all those who left their native lands behind to brave hardship, and accept sacrifice to seek a land where families could thrive, and succeeding generations could prosper.

Boston’s Freedom Trail is aptly named. As we follow its course, the men who pioneered the idea of a godly commonwealth, subservient to God and his law, and the men who resisted tyranny and brought about a new nation come to life once again in the graveyards, churches and battlefields. We see the connections between Scripture and the constitutional ideals of the Independence generation. We talk of John Winthrop, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, John and Abigail Adams, George Washington, the Minute Men, Paul Revere, Dr. Warren, Betsy Ross, and many others, including their opponents, King George III, General Howe, and John Pitcairn. They all come to life through the re-telling of their stories.

Freedom Trail, Boston

Our tour does not end with the stories, however. What good is knowledge of the past without the realization that “the hand of the LORD is mighty,” and that our “generations must fear the LORD forever.” We look for the mighty hand of God’s providence throughout our own history and trace His lovingkindness to us through the years. We will also see what has been lost and how the right understanding of our past can so easily be distorted. We must be most careful ourselves not to claim credit for the good things God has given our nation nor excuse the evils committed by our fathers. Our understanding of the times then and now requires us to humble ourselves, repent and stand in the day of battle. We will see examples to emulate and failures to avoid.

One of the best ways to learn history is to walk the fields that time has left behind, often studded with remembrance stones. As the Lord Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell, asked, “what is all our histories, but God showing himself, shaking and trampling on all that he has not planted?” Come with us to see one of those God-blessed plantations.

Bill Potter