I prayed the hymn, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," for America this morning. When I came to the words “land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride,” I couldn’t help feeling a little choked-up. I’ve spent many hours studying a particular group of pilgrims, from the earliest beginnings in England to the first years on the North American seashore. I love this statement made by one of their leaders, William Bradford, the second governor of Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts:


"The Lord’s free people joined themselves together by covenant as a church, in the fellowship of the gospel to walk in all His ways, made known, or to be made known to them, according to their best endeavors, whatever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them. And that it cost them something, the ensuing history will declare.”


Indeed it did cost them. They were driven out of their native England by persecution from the Catholic Church, escaping to the Netherlands. There they struggled to find gainful employment in a foreign land, and to their dismay, saw their children becoming assimilated into the secular culture around them. The fast-approaching war between the Netherlands and Catholic Spain was the final straw that caused them to flee to America . . . where, shortly after arrival, half of them died of sickness, and those that survived nearly starved to death.


We are free to worship “according to the dictates of our own conscience” because of pilgrims such as these, our wayfaring forefathers. Added to their number are the countless soldiers and law enforcement officers, both past and present, who’ve given their lives for the cause of liberty. Won’t you join me in prayer, thanking God for these brave men and women — and asking Him to sanctify, protect, and “shed His grace” on a country that was purchased at so great a price?


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My Country ’Tis of Thee