With the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims a little more than a year away, it is important to demonstrate the ideological roots of covenant that they expressed in the Mayflower Compact as well as the consistent preaching on Biblical covenant by the clergy in the colonies that resulted in the Declaration of Independence 156 years later. The foundational documents of religious and civil liberty in America are rooted in Biblical covenant and these ideas have been emulated by nations around the globe.
The Declaration of Independence was always considered inseparable with the Constitution since every charter by necessity must have a set of by-laws. However, in our day, as Americans celebrate the 242nd birth of their nation on the 4th of July, they may do so without an understanding that the truths declared in that charter is the foundation upon which our liberties rest. We have become accustomed to selective constitutional obedience in large part because we no longer interpret it from the premises set forth in the Declaration.
On March 1, 1781, the first constitution of the United States, called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, officially became the first American covenant of law. Since the ratification required all 13 colonies to agree before it could be finalized, there were 39 months between the first colony, Virginia, who ratified in December of 1777, and Maryland, who ratified it in February of 1781.
It is popular today to assume that the belief that men and women can solve all problems without God or the Bible (the “enlightenment”) was the dominant influence at the time of our Declaration of Independence and the writing of our first (Articles in 1781) and subsequently final (1789) Constitution. However, this is simply not supported by a more thorough scholarship which affirms that orthodox Protestant beliefs, rooted in the Scriptures, was the most influential ideology that directly affected the writing of these documents. It was biblical ideas that found their way into our laws, form of government and philosophy of rights at the formative period of the United States.