by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs
[Friend-of-the-blog Dr. Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, author of the new Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners---Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation, sends along a comment on Mark David Hall's most recent installment of his upcoming paper The Influence of the Reformed Tradition on the American Founding:]
Mark David Hall quotes the Mayflower Compact thus: "the Mayflower Compact, committed the people and the rulers to 'the Glory of God, and the Advancement of the Christian Faith.'"
This truncated citation is slightly misleading. The Mayflower Compact, in the section quoted, says, "Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the christian faith and honour of our king & country, a voyage to plant the first Colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, [We whose names are underwritten &c] do by these presents solemnly & mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, Covenant, & Combine ourselves together into a Civil body politic, for our better ordering, & preservation & furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to Enact, Constitute, and frame such just & equal laws, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet & convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience..."
I think the truncation overemphasizes the point Mr. Hall wants to make, at the expense of subtlety. The Mayflower Compact represents Separatist thought, not "early Puritan political thought." The religious aspect (Glory of God, Advancement of the Christian Faith) is not a predominantly important part of this civil document, even though the Separatists arose out of the Puritan context in England. There's more of this distinction in my book about the Pilgrims, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners (2009), especially pp. 610-626. The book also points out that the Pilgrims diverged from the dominant Puritan/Calvinist dogmatism, rejecting the idea that credal formulations had somehow overcome the general imperfection of all things human. (That is to say, they agreed with Calvinist formulations while acknowledging that all such credal statements were unavoidably imperfect, an acknowledgment one might like to see shared by some modern Calvinists.)