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July 12, 2021

America as the Promised Land

Many early colonists and immigrants viewed America as the “promised land.” In the wake of brutal religious conflicts in Europe in the 1600s, America represented a safe haven for the religiously oppressed and exiled. Thus, the biblical story of the exodus and the search for a promised land resonated with many early colonists. One example is seen in a sermon by John Cotton, a prominent minister in England. In 1630 he preached to a group departing from an English port to settle in Massachusetts. He said God appoints “a place for a people” and made repeated reference to the story from the biblical book of Exodus in which God leads the Israelites “from one Country to another.” Cotton continued: “It is a land of promise, where they have provision for soul as well as for body.” Within three years Cotton followed those colonists and settled in Boston, where he had an active preaching ministry. The association of America as a promised land continued in the consciousness of many. Centuries later German immigrants sang: “America ... is a beautiful land that God promised to Abraham.”

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