America's Christian Heritage - The Revolution and Beyond
by Alliance for Life Ministries
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.
(It should be noted that many theists who were not classic Christians still would be identified as Protestants in those days. However theists acknowledge a Supreme Being...)
Reverend Jonas Clark was a very influential man and the parson of Christ Church, which was "thee" church in a small town named Lexington in 1775. In his church parking lot, only a few feet from the church parsonage, the first shot of the Revelutionary War was fired and the first blood spilled. 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.
(Also, many were Masons but the Masonic Lodge in the days of the Revolution was, in Europe and especially in the Colonies a kind of a 'gentlemen for freedom' club more concerned about establishing free societies than rituals and secret handshakes.)
OUR FOUNDING FOREFATHERS PAVE THE WAY BEFORE US:
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 God."
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 lose 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 liberty."
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.
(Technically George Washington was NOT the first President and I invite you to do the research, but he was the first President who was Chief Executive and he DID refuse to take the title of King when offered to him.)
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 Christianity."
Andrew Jackson, our seventh president claimed (referring to the Bible) "That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic stands."
A QUICK TOUR OF OUR CAPITOL REMINDS US THAT THIS NATION WAS BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN BELIEF.
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.
These facts of our national history, quotations, monuments, paintings, and inscriptions shout through the generations that the highest values of these United States are firmly founded in the God of truth and the Christian faith.
For more detailed additional information we direct you to Christianity and the Constitution by John Eidsmoe, published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 49516
Whatever happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Click here to find out.