Long before Christopher Columbus sailed, Europeans had dreamed of a land of abundance, riches, and ease beyond the western horizon. Once the "discovery" of this New World had taken place, they invented an America of the imagination, projecting onto it their hopes for a better life. Here, many believed, would arise unparalleled opportunities for riches, or at least liberation from poverty. Europeans envisioned America as a religious refuge, a society of equals, and a source of power and glory. They searched the New World for golden cities and fountains of eternal youth. Some of these dreams would indeed be fulfilled. To many European settlers, America offered a far greater chance to own land and worship as they pleased than existed in Europe, with its rigid, unequal social order and official churches. Yet the New World also became the site of many forms of unfree
The Divine Right to Occupy the Land by John Cotton (1630)
Web Version: http://www.pragmatism.org/american/docs/cotton_divine_right.htm
The placing of a people in this or that country is from the appointment of the
Lord. . .
Quest. Wherein doth this work of God stand in appointing a place for a people?
Answ. First, when God espies or discovers a land for a people, as in Ezek. 20:6:
"He brought them into a land that He had espied for them." And, that is, when either He
gives them to discover it themselves, or hears of it discovered by others, and fitting them.
Second, after He hath espied it, when He carrieth them along to it, so that they plainly see
a providence of God leading them from one country to another, as in Ex. 19.-4; "You
have seen how I have borne you as on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself" So
that though they met with many difficulties, yet He carried them high above them all, like
an eagle, flying over seas and rocks, and all hindrances.
Third, when He makes room for a people to dwell there, as in Ps. 80:9: "Thou
preparedst room for them. . ."
Now, God makes room for a people three ways: First, when He casts out the
enemies of a people before them by lawful war with the inhabitants, which God calls
them unto, as in Ps. 44:2- "Thou didst drive out the heathen before them." But this course
of warring against others and driving them out without provocation depends upon special
commission from God, or else it is not imitable.
Second, when He gives a foreign people favor in the eyes of any native people to
come and sit down with them, either by way of purchase, as Abraham did obtain the field
of Achpelah; or else when they give it in courtesy, as Pharaoh did the land of Goshen
unto the sons of Jacob.
Third, when He makes a country, though not altogether void of inhabitants, yet
void in that place where they reside. Where there is a vacant place, there is liberty for the
sons of Adam or Noah to come and inhabit, though they neither buy it nor ask their
leaves. . . . So that it is free from that common grant for any to take possession of vacant
countries. Indeed, no nation is to drive out another without special commission from
Heaven, such as the Israelites had, unless the natives do unjustly wrong them, and will
not recompense the wrongs done in a peaceable fort [way]. And then they may right
themselves by lawful war and subdue the country unto them- selves. . .
This may teach us all, where we now dwell or where after we may dwell: Be sure you
look at every place appointed to you from the hand of God. We may not rush into any
place and never say to God, "By Your leave." But we must discern how God appoints us
this place. There is poor comfort in sitting down in any place that you cannot say, "This
place is appointed me of God." Canst thou say that God spied out this place for thee, and
there hath settled thee above all hindrances? Didst thou find that God made room for the
either by lawful descent, or purchase, or gift, or other warrantable right? Why, then, this
is the place God hath appointed thee; here He hath made room for thee, He hath placed
thee in Rehoboth, in a peaceable place. This we must discern or else we are but intruders
upon God. And when we do withal discern that God giveth us these out- ward blessings
from His love in Christ, and maketh comfortable provision as well for our soul as for our
bodies by the means of grace, then do we enjoy our present possession as well by
gracious promise as by the common, and just, and bountiful providence of the Lord. Or,
if a man do remove, he must see that God hath espied out such a country for him. . .
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