Separating fact from fiction, exactitude from nostalgia, and actuality from myth in early American history is often more than a little difficult. Though it is perhaps unwise to have anything like an idealized perception of that great epoch, nevertheless it is difficult to dismiss the breadth and depth of the fledgling colonial culture and by the substantive character of the people who populated it. Living in a day when genuine heroes are few and far between—at best—those pioneers and the times they vivified provide a startling contrast.
The fact is colonial America produced an extraordinary number of prodigiously gifted men. From William Byrd and George Wythe to Peyton Randolph and Patrick Henry, from Samuel Adams and John Hancock to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington the legacy of the seventeenth-century's native-born geniuses remains unmatched. Their accomplishments—literary, scientific, economic, political, and cultural—are staggering to consider. According to historian Paul Johnson, "Never before has one place and one time given rise to so many great men."
There are very few things that modern historians can agree on. But when it comes to God and His heroes, there is sudden consensus. The long-held notion that history is His story is fiercely resisted in our day. The once dominant view that history is not merely the record of what happened in the past but that it is a kind of moral philosophy worked out by great men and women of vision has been replaced by the odd assertions and assumptions by a handful of experts. It is too easy for us to forget—or to try to ignore—the fact that the doings of man are on the knees of an inscrutable and sovereign God. It is too easy for us to forget that the record of the ages is actually philosophy teaching by example.
Because the past is ever present, giving shape and focus to all our lives, it is not what was, but whatever seems to have been, simply because the past, like the future, is part and parcel of the faith.