The 105 colonists and seamen who set sail from England and settled in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 carried the Geneva Bible with them. The copious notes of this refugee translation, while identifying the existing papal government as the biblical antichrist, saw beyond its own generation to a more glorious future. Keep in mind that the editors of the Geneva notes believed that antichrist was a past and present reality for them. They believed antichrist was alive but would not be well on planet earth. They did not believe that the existence of the false religion of papal Rome as evidence of an any-moment rapture or a prelude to Armageddon. In fact, those who studied the notes of the Geneva Bible saw it as their mission to take the gospel to unknown lands and unsaved peoples.
Forty seven years after the first edition and printing of the Geneva Bible, English Christians took its message to heart. Before finding what would be their permanent settlement, Rev. Robert Hunt (1568–1608) offered the following prayer on April 29, 1607 at Cape Henry (now Virginia Beach, Virginia)”
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 Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World. May all who see this Cross, remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.
Using covenantal language, Hunt declared, “from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth not only to this New World but the entire world.” The following Bible passage was read at the conclusion of the prayer: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he ruleth among the nations” (Ps. 22:27–28). There is none of the usual eschatological talk here that we read so much about today.
The Jamestown settlers believed in a covenantal approach to history whereby future generations would “take the Kingdom of God to all the earth”—and this is the important part—“as long as this earth remains.” These concepts came directly from the notes of the Geneva Bible with its kingdom-advancing approach:
[The Geneva Bible] provided much of the genius and inspiration which carried those courageous and faithful souls through their trials, and provided the spiritual, intellectual and legal basis for establishment and flourishing of the colonies. Thus, it became the foundation for establishment of the American Nation.
Even after the 1607 settlement, the Geneva Bible was being used to encourage the colonists from afar and in the preparation of later waves of English immigration.
Considerable literature was put out and numerous sermons were preached in London, in the interest of the colony in Virginia, and much of this, at least—practically all, in fact that we have been able to examine—was provided by men, who used the Geneva Bible, presumably Puritans. The Good Speed to Virginia, written by Robert Gray, in the interest of the enterprise, was published in London, in 1609, and he quotes from the Geneva Bible. Several sermons were preached before the Virginia Company in London, for which service they chose freely, if not uniformly, Puritans. Perhaps the first such sermon was delivered at White Chapel on April 25, 1609, by the Rev. William Symonds, the minister of Saint Saviours in Southwark. He used the Geneva Bible, as his Scripture quotations prove.
What was uniformly true in Virginia in 1607 was equally true of the Plymouth colony in 1620. Like the earlier Jamestown settlers, the Pilgrims who had first gone to the Netherlands for refuge, came to the new world with the Geneva Bible in hand. The Mayflower Compact states that they undertook the voyage “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith.” This included a cultural application of the Bible. They stated: “[We] Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” They were not end-time system builders.
In his 1630 “Model of Christian Charity,” John Winthrop (1577/8–1649) offered the following exhortation to those aboard the Arbella as they joined the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “may the Lord make it like that of New England.” For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.
There are lessons for us today. We face similar obstacles in an ever-growing and ineffective civil government torn apart by two political parties at war with the Constitution, a diverse false church, and an external enemy in Islam. We can either follow the notes of Geneva as applied to our contemporary world**** or the notes of Scofield. I can assure you that it will make all the difference in the world.
* Please don’t email or post a comment saying that you only follow the Bible. I’m using the title as a metaphor and the article as a history lesson to show how Christians in the past dealt with adversity and did not cop out by creating an eschatological system that seemingly gave them good cause to view world conditions as indicators of a near end.**
**The actual title is _A Good Speed to Virginia_ (London, 1609).**
** P. Marion Simms, _The Bible in America: Versions that Have Played Their Part 1n the Making of the Republic_ (New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1936), 75–76.**
** I make this point because I do not agree with the Geneva notes when they identify the papacy as the antichrist. See my article on “Hal Lindsey, Obama, and the Antichrist.” I realize that there are those who follow the Reformers on this issue and insist that modern-day Roman Catholicism is the embodiment of antichrist. Based on John’s definition, this cannot be (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7).