The doctrine of discovery was built on pride, aggression, and disrespect of others. It condoned methods of aggression for the “end” of “conversion.” But there was another movement, a remnant, born of true revival, that was arising as well. In that movement, true conversion was sought, one from the heart and voluntary. Though not as large, it would prove to be more potent and eventually more influential. This is how God works.
The challenge of the time was that the rhetoric used to describe the Providence of God had within it the over-arching terminology of aggression. Though the remnant spirit of the Pilgrims would eventually, through their actions, outlast the rhetoric, it does matter how we describe God’s power and love.
The intent of this “remnant” was described in part by Robert Cushman, a member of the Pilgrim Church, when he wrote about their godly intent: “A man must not respect only to live, and do good to himself, but he should see where he can live to do most good to others.” Yet the description of the power of God, written by Nathaniel Morton, secretary of the Pilgrim Colony; “…God was angry with them (the Natives) for their wickedness, and would destroy them, and give their Country to another people, that should not live like beasts as they did, and should be clothed…. And mightily swept them away and left them as dung on the earth.” To be described as beasts and dung is hardly loving rhetoric.
But actions speak louder than words, and the conduct and character of the Pilgrims would outlast the unfortunate rhetoric. However, rhetoric matters, and the aggressive terminology (as well as behavior, especially before, during and after King Phillips War) is the root of much of the bitterness that still lingers today.