Most people don’t realize what this nation was like at its beginning.
Even as late as 1776 – 150 years after a Christian group we refer
to as the Pilgrims moved their church to America, we see the population
of our country as: 98 percent Protestant Christians, 1.8 percent
Catholic Christians, and .2 of 1 percent Jewish. That means that
99.8% of the people in America in 1776 professed to be Christians.
Reverend Jonas Clark was the "parson" of a church in
a small town called Lexington. In his church parking lot, only a
few feet from the church parsonage, the "shot heard around
the world" was fired. The people that were killed were members
of his congregation. Clark looked down with great anguish at the
bodies of those who had died and made this statement: "From
this day will be dated the liberty of the world." It began
in a church. It began with a pastor that was part of the "Black
Regiment" because of the black robes they wore. These pastors
preached resounding sermons that resonated throughout New England
about the evils of tyranny and the importance of liberty.
Revolutionary leaders were devout men who could not have been more
empathic in their determination that our national policy rested
on Scriptural foundation. Of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional
Convention, 52 were Orthodox Christians.
After signing the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, who
was called the firebrand of the American Revolution, affirmed his
obedience to God by stating, "We have this day restored the
Sovereign to whom alone men ought to be obedient. From the rising
to the setting of the sun may His kingdom come."
Reverend Doctor John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence,
member of the Continental Congress, described as the "man who
shaped the man that shaped America" said, "God grant that
in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable .
. . ." Reverend Witherspoon was also responsible for publishing
two American editions of the Bible.
Benjamin Franklin, who signed the Declaration and was often identified
as a deist in his younger years, delivered his most famous speech
on June 28, 1787, at the age of eighty-one. He said, "I have
lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing
proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of man.
And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is
it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been
assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build
the house, they labor in vain that build it."
Other notable Christian signers of the Declaration were: Charles
Thompson, who is responsible for the first translation of the Greek
Septuagint into English; Dr. Benjamin Rush, founder of the first
Bible Society in America; Francis Hopkinson, who was responsible
for the first American hymnbook; Cesar Rodney, whose home State
of Delaware (the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution) required
that officeholders sign a declaration of Christian faith, Thomas
Nelson JR, Commander of the Virginia Militia, and Thomas McKean,
the man responsible for the first legal commentary on the constitution
of the United States. Pennsylvania’s Chief Justice, a founding father,
said to a man sentenced to die for treason, "It behooves you
most seriously to reflect upon your conduct, to repent of your evil
deeds, to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God
to forgive you your . . . sins."
John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, said, "Let
us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe."
Governor Morris, who wrote the Constitution in 1787, and wrote
in 1790 and in 1791, two commentaries on the Constitution said,
"Religion is the solid basis of good morals; therefore education
should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man toward
William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution, closed his speeches
with Proverbs 29:2: "When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.
When the wicked rule, the people groan."
George Mason, father of the Bill of Rights, exclaimed, "My
soul I resign into the hands of my Almighty Creator, whose tender
mercies are all over His works . . . "
Nathan Hale, called the "Martyr Spy," came from a solid
Christian foundation and upbringing. He is best remembered for his
last words, prior to laying down his life for God and country at
the young age of twenty-one, "I only regret that I have but
one life to loose for my country."
Two other founding fathers of our nation that expressed their fervent
Christian beliefs were Roger Sherman and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
Alexander Hamilton could also be added to that list.
John Jay, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote,
"Unto Him who is the Author and giver of all good, I render
sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings,
and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son."
James Wilson, George Washington’s appointment to the Supreme Court
stated, "Christianity is part of the common-law."
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (appointed by President James
Madison) called America a "Christian country."
Statesman Daniel Webster warned of political disaster. He stated,
"If we and our posterity neglect religious instruction and
authority . . . no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm
us." Webster said on December 22,1820, observing the 200th
anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts,
"Let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our
fathers brought hither their high veneration of the Christian religion."
French historian Alex de Tocqueville, author of "Democracy
in America" in 1835, wrote, "There is no country in the
world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over
the souls of men than in America."
Noah Webster, who literally wrote the English dictionary claimed,
"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures
ought to form the basis of all civil Constitutions and laws."
Patrick Henry, a Christian patriot, golden tongued orator of the
Revolutionary period, and the only U.S. Governor to be elected and
reelected five times said in a celebrated speech before the Revolutionary
War, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased
at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know
not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty
or give me death!" Henry also said, "It cannot be emphasized
too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not
by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the
Gospels of Jesus Christ."
One of the great slogans of the American Revolution was "No
King but King Jesus!"
In 1799 the Supreme Court in Maryland ruled: "By our form of
government the Christian religion is the established religion; and
all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon equal
footing, and they are equally entitled to protection in their religious
The founding fathers expected officeholders to be Christians.While
denominational affiliation didn’t matter, a belief in God and the
Bible was paramount. Nine of the thirteen colonies had written constitutions.
Many of them required officeholders to sign a declaration that amounted
to a statement of faith. The Delaware Constitution of 1776 is a
perfect example. Everyone appointed to public office had to say:
"I do profess faith in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus
Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forevermore;
and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
to be given by divine inspiration."
Two historians at the University of Houston did a 10-year study
of the ideas that shaped our republic. They started with 15,000
documents from the Colonial era, which were boiled down to 3,154
statements. The three most quoted individuals were French philosopher
Montesquieu (8.3 percent), English jurist William Blackstone (7.9
percent) and English philosopher John Locke (2.9 percent). But Biblical
citations dwarfed them all. Ninety-four percent of the founding
fathers quotes were based on the Bible--34 percent directly from
its pages and 60 percent from men who had used the Bible to arrive
at their conclusions.
The Bible is the foundation upon which our nation was built. A
hundred and nineteen of the first schools, including Harvard, Princeton,
Dartmouth, and Yale, were established on the Word of God and dedicated
to the Lordship of Christ and for the training of disciples of the
Lord. As late as 1850 Christians ran virtually every newspaper in
this country. The law and the federal and local judiciaries were
either all Christians or Jewish.
The Continental Congress, in 1777, recommended and approved that
the Committee of Commerce "import 20,000 Bibles from Holland,
Scotland, or elsewhere," because of the great need of the American
people and the great shortage caused by the interruption of trade
with England by the Revolutionary War.
PRIORITIES OF OUR EARLY U.S. PRESIDENTS:
On April 30,1789, the first President of the United States, George
Washington, took the oath of office with his hand on the Bible opened
to Deuteronomy 6. In his first inaugural address, President Washington
acknowledged God for the reason for America’s birth: "It would
be improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplication
to that Almighty Being. . . . No people can be bound to acknowledge
and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more
than people of the United States. . . . We ought to be no less persuaded
that the propitious smiles of Heaven cannot be expected on a nation
that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven
itself has ordained." President Washington’s inaugural address
concluded with a church service at Saint Paul’s Chapel, led by the
chaplains of Congress.
President Washington professed his Christian faith publicly in many
of his speeches and writings. "True religion offers to government
its surest support," Washington said. "It is impossible
to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." His
personal prayer book, written in his own handwriting, declares:
"O most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ my merciful loving Father,
I acknowledge and confess my guilt, in the week and imperfect performance
of the duties of this day." It is factual that President Washington
knelt and prayed and read the Bible for one hour every day. John
Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court described Washington:
"Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was
a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man."
John Adams, our second president, said, "Our Constitution
was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate
for the government or any other."
Even Thomas Jefferson, third president, and one who certainly did
not hold to all the traditional doctrines of Christianity, placed
the Bible and Isaac Watt’s Book of Psalms and Hymns in the District
of Columbia’s public schools. Jefferson declared religion: "Deemed
in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved
by our experience to be its best support."
James Madison, fourth president of the United States and referred
to as the "Father of the Constitution," stated, "The
belief in a God All Powerful, wise and good, is essential to the
moral order of the world and to the happiness of man."
John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States and "Chief
Architect" of the Constitution said, "The highest glory
of the American Revolution was it connected, in one indissoluble
bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of
Andrew Jackson, our seventh president claimed (referring to the
Bible) "That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic stands."
THIS NATION WAS BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN BELIEF.
The Supreme Court building portrays Moses holding the Ten
Commandments through which the voice of God thunders "Thou
shalt not murder."
The Capitol Rotunda contains eight massive oil paintings,
each depicting a major event in history. Four of these paintings
portray Jesus Christ and the Bible: 1) Columbus landing on the shores
of the New World, and holding high the cross of Jesus Christ, 2)
a group of Dutch pilgrims gathered around a large, opened Bible,
3) a cross being planted in the soil, commemorating the discovery
of the Mississippi River by the Explorer De Soto, and 4) the Christian
baptism of the Indian convert Pocahontas.
Statuary Hall contains life size statues of famous citizens
that have been given by individual states. Medical missionary Marcus
Whitman stands big as life, holding a Bible. Another statue is of
missionary Junipero Serra, who founded the missions of Los Angeles,
San Francisco, Montery and San Diego. Illinois sent a statue of
Francis Willard, an associate of the evangelist Dwight L. Moody.
Inscribed on the walls of the Library of Congress are quotes
honoring the study of art, the wall is etched with "Nature
is the art of God." A quote honoring Science says, "The
heavens declare the glory of God." An inspiration honoring
religion is Micah 6:8, "What doth the Lord require of thee
but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
On a wall in the Jefferson Memorial we read, "God who
gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be thought
secure when we removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the
minds of people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they
are not to be violated without His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for
my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice sleep
Washington Monument Steps have stones with inscriptions on
them. Some of them are, "Search the Scriptures" – "Train
up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not
depart from it" – "The memory of the just is blessed"
– "Holiness to the Lord" – and the top which says "Praise
be to God!"
Inscribed on the north wall of the Lincoln Memorial is the
Presidents second inaugural address. Lincoln feared that God would
not be satisfied until every drop of blood drawn by the lash is
repaid by another drop of blood drawn by the sword.
Are these inscriptions just empty words, nostalgic sayings that
no longer describe the ideals of our nation’s government? Consider
the message of another inscription, this one at the base of a large
statute entitled "Heritage," which is outside the main
entrance of the National Archives. It reads: "The heritage
of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future."
No seed flourishes if it is not cultivated.
By John Eidsmoe, published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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