Our Democracy’s Foundation -- By: Raymond L. Bridgman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:308 (Oct 1920)
Article: Our Democracy’s Foundation
Author: Raymond L. Bridgman


Our Democracy’s Foundation

Raymond L. Bridgman

Exceptional attention is being given now, and promises to be given in 1921, during the celebration of the tercentenary of the landing of the Pilgrims, to the compact signed in the cabin of the Mayflower. In the Massachusetts State Library the famous little volume, “Of Plimouth Plantation,” lies open under a glass case at the page where, in Governor William Bradford’s handwriting, this vital document for world democracy is quoted in full. Of all the historical treasures of the Commonwealth, this ranks first. It is regarded by many judges as the foundation of modern democracy in principle; for the reason that its principle runs back to the creation of man, and the application of the principle runs far and wide to-day to all nations, and also runs forward to all future generations as long as man shall live on the earth.

In connection with the recent International Congregational Council in Boston, emphasis was laid in many ways upon the development of democracy from a religious foundation. Where such abundant testimony is given, both in fact and argument, it is easy to gather support from numerous sources of commanding authority. In the mind’s eye of many writers and observers of religion and politics, the vital connection between our national life and glory today and the religious principles of the Pilgrims is the blazing truth of our United States history.

Quotation from various sources is easy to reveal many views of this truth. These views do not contradict, but corroborate each other in making a strong case from diverse angles. Ten English commissions and ten American were created to present reports upon important phases of denominational history. These make a case well worth attention outside of their own constituency. Fundamental

to our theme is a part of the first sentence of the American Report No. 1, “the believer’s right and competency to have immediate access to God, and, with the aid of the Spirit, to interpret the Scriptures accepted as the supreme guide to faith and conduct.”

Take the following from the report of the English Commission No. 3, on “the contribution of Congregationalism to civil and religious liberty”:—

“Robert Browne, the founder of independency, as Dexter says, ‘had no idea of being a democrat, or that he was teaching democracy. His conception of church government, it is clear, was of the absolute monarchy of Christ over the church. But then he conceived of Christ the King as reigning through as many agents as there are individual subjects in His kingdom.’ And when he reached this point, he had (though probably perfectly unconsciously) laid ...

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