The Religious Beliefs of the Pilgrims

  • According to the Mayflower Compact of 1620 the Pilgrims came to the New World to plant the first colony for the glory of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith.
  • The Pilgrims were separatists who rejected the extra-biblical sacraments and church hierarchy found within the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches of Europe and England.
  • Pilgrims emphasized the believer’s freedom and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was for this reason they were persecuted and fled England for Holland, and ultimately the New World.
  • The Pilgrims were Protestants who traced their theological heritage back to John Calvin and Calvinism. They believed in predestination, the election by God, before creation, of the saved and the lost. Pilgrims used John Calvin’s Geneva translation of the Bible.
  • Pilgrims practiced only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They rejected any religious practice or tradition that did not have the support of Scripture.
  • The Pilgrims practiced infant baptism. They believed that infant baptism removed the guilt of original sin and was a new covenant between God and believers, just as circumcision was in the Old Testament. For the Pilgrims, at least one parent must have been a believer for an infant to be baptized.
  • The Pilgrims did not celebrate religious holidays like Christmas or Easter, as they viewed these as extra-biblical inventions of man. However, they strictly observed the weekly Sabbath day of rest on Sundays.
  • While not all believers will agree with every theological distinctive of the Pilgrims, American Christians can be thankful that our original colonists were a people who valued the word of God and the great principles of the Reformation.

For more information on America’s spiritual heritage, please check out Jason Carlson’s lecture series, The Church in a Post-Christian Culture, available in our online store.