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This Week in History: A Cross, a Covenant, and a Commission


Is it possible that the words declared and the cross planted by the Jamestown settlers when they first landed in Virginia in 1607 were the catalysts that God used to bless this land and the nation that would become the United States of America?

It was April 26, 1607, when the passengers aboard the Susan Constance, the Godspeed, and the Discovery suddenly spotted the point of land soon to be named Cape Henry.

It had been more than five months since the ships left England and headed for the coast of North America. By then, each man had had enough of the smells of salty air, body odor, and musty dampness. Cramped quarters had incited tempers and restlessness among the nearly 50 traveling on each boat. They eagerly awaited the opportunity to go ashore. 

Led by Captain Christopher Newport, the passengers were made up of two key groups: the gentlemen, who were traveling for adventure and profit, and the offals (“awfuls” in today’s lexicon), who were there for freedom after being given the choice to remain in prison or become a shipmate, rowing and steering the boats to the New World.

Then there was Robert Hunt, the spiritual leader who was profoundly aware of his responsibility as the only trained minister amongst the sojourners.

Reverend Hunt suggested three days of preparation before landing. Captain Newport agreed, recognizing that a unity amongst explorer and scallywag, both in purpose and procedure, would be necessary to survive. Prayers of thanksgiving, confession, and direction were offered to the God of creation.

On day four, the men came ashore at Cape Henry, planted an England-hewed seven-foot cross, prayed, and dedicated the land. Here are the words Robert Hunt offered to Almighty God:

“Father, we come to you in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ our Savior to dedicate this land to the glory of God…Father in Heaven, we consecrate this Cross.  We consecrate ourselves to the Great Commission, making disciples of all the people of this new land.  We consecrate and thus bless future generations that join us here in this land of abundance and godly opportunity to spread His Gospel to the ends of the earth for the greater glory of God. 

May others who ponder this cross remember our sacrifice, remaining dedicated to this lasting covenant we beseech You for today; for others and those yet to follow.  May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, for as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World.

Father in Heaven, we are here to be sent.  May our lives be your instrument in setting captives free. We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the people within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up future Godly generations, and with these forthcoming generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May all who see this Cross, remember our covenant with Almighty God, and may those who come here to inhabit this land, join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled as it has been declared.”

Two weeks later, the three ships traveled to a site approximately 40 miles inland from the cape, which was approximately halfway between the northern and southern boundaries on the eastern shore of the new continent. And with that, the Virginia Company established the first permanent English settlement in North America. They named it Jamestown after King James I.

The realities of the first few years are hard to imagine or comprehend. The boats left the Jamestown area a few months later, returning to England but leaving approximately 100 men to set up the colony. Disease, malnutrition, and hostile interactions with the Indian tribes left fewer than 40 men alive after the first winter. An accidental fire in January 1608 destroyed many of the remaining supplies, including the small library of Reverend Hunt. Despite the conflagration, chapel was held every day, two times per day, and two sermons were preached each Sunday.

Reverend Robert Hunt officiated more than 60 funerals. His unfortunate death in the spring of 1608, after surviving a year in the New World, eliminated a voice of reason and a mediator amongst the men. As Reverend Hunt believed, God’s Divine Hand had been prominent in saving the settlement from complete annihilation. The story of Jamestown, a community made up of men with very few resources and very little survival knowledge, who somehow endured in the face of harsh winters, disease, and frequent conflict with local Native American tribes, ought to lead Christians and other Americans to conclude that God did, in fact, providentially preserve it.

Is it possible that the words declared and the cross planted during that April 1607 landing at Cape Henry were the catalysts that God used to bless this land and the nation that would become the United States of America?

Given what the ragtag group would face over the next few years, some might say that Hunt’s ceremony was little more than wishful thinking. And yet the phrases of this declarative prayer combined into a Covenant of Dedication that, as Robert Hunt asserted should “remain to all generations, for as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World.”  

Words like “declaration,” “covenant,” and “consecration” had specific meaning to the Jamestown pastor. Inviolable is the word often used to describe a covenant — never to be broken, infringed, or dishonored.

And clearly, what began with a cross, a group of men on a beach, and a prayer grew into a mighty nation that did, in fact, go and show the world the hope and saving grace of the Gospel.

But what of today? America is no longer dedicated to being the “Evangelist to the World.” Americans are actually told to refrain from discussing the path to salvation because citing the Bible’s precepts on sin and repentance is now considered hate speech. Moreover, America’s educational system has been stripped of any emphasis on raising the next generation to be godly — or even to know God.

And since history is no longer taught, very few Americans recognize the trust that Reverend Hunt and the Jamestown settlers had in God’s transcendent sovereignty, and they certainly don’t care about or appreciate the sacrifices they made.

Unfortunately, the land of abundance and is quickly fading because the God who gave abundance and opportunity is no longer recognized as the source of those blessings. Now, Americans are taught to look to government to satisfy their needs and wants.

Like our forefathers, the Standing for Freedom Center believes that words matter. Robert Hunt’s prayer of covenant dedication and consecration remind us of the gravity of that moment and its connection to our responsibilities today.

May we recognize our duty to stand for freedom, to speak the truth in love, to declare the Gospel, and to recognize that the God of Creation is the same Divine Providence today that prompted the founding of this nation nearly 250 years ago, as declared by John Adams, George Washington, and others. It is time to reclaim that reality for ourselves — and for future generations.

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