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"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as
EAGLES; they shall run, and not be weary; and they they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
Patriotic History
America's Biblical and Godly Origin
 
 
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The Belief Systems of America's First Patriots...Christians or Deists
Who Were the Founding Fathers?
 
Although very lopsided(the preponderance of evidence is quite weighty on the side of the evangelicals), historical proof-texts can be raised on both sides. Certainly there were godless men among the early leadership of our nation, though some of those cited as examples of Founding Fathers turn out to be insignificant players. For example, Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen may have been hostile to evangelical Christianity, but they were firebrands of the Revolution, not intellectual architects of the Constitution. Paine didn't arrive in this country until 1774 and only stayed a short time, and later in life as Franklin, his close friend, rebuked him for his apostacy, then turned zealously towards Christianity.

As for others--George Washington, Samuel Adams, James Madison, John Witherspoon, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams, Patrick Henry, and even Thomas Jefferson--their personal correspondence, biographies, and public statements are replete with quotations showing that these thinkers had political philosophies deeply influenced by Christianity.

The Constitutional Convention

It's not necessary to dig through the diaries, however, to determine which faith was the Founder's guiding light. There's an easier way to settle the issue.

The phrase "Founding Fathers" is a proper noun. It refers to a specific group of men, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. There were other important players not in attendance, like Jefferson, whose thinking deeply influenced the shaping of our nation. These 55 Founding Fathers, though, made up the core.

The denominational affiliations of these men were a matter of public record. Among the delegates were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 8 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and only 2 deists--Williamson and Wilson--this at a time when church membership entailed a sworn public confession of biblical faith.[1]

This is a revealing tally. It shows that the members of the Constitutional Convention, the most influential group of men shaping the political foundations of our nation, were almost all Christians, 52 of 55--a full 95%. Indeed, 70% were Calvinists (the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and the Dutch Reformed), considered by some to be the most extreme and dogmatic form of Christianity.

Benjamin Franklin

Even Franklin, the quazi Congregationalist/deist, is equivocal. He was raised in a Puritan family and later adopted and then abandoned deism. Though not an orthodox Christian, it was 81-year-old Franklin's emotional call to humble prayer on June 28, 1787, that was the turning point for a hopelessly stalled Convention. James Madison recorded the event in his collection of notes and debates from the Federal Convention. Franklin's appeal contained no less than four direct references to Scripture.

And have we forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? 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 men. 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.' I firmly believe this and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.[2]

Three of the four cornerstones of the Constitution--Franklin, Washington, and Madison--were firmly rooted in Christianity. But what about Thomas Jefferson? His signature cannot be found at the end of the Constitution, but his voice permeates the entire document.

Thomas Jefferson

Though deeply committed to a belief in natural rights, including the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, Jefferson was individualistic when it came to religion; he sifted through the New Testament to find the facts that pleased him.

Sometimes he sounded like a staunch churchman. The Declaration of Independence contains at least four references to God. In his Second Inaugural Address he asked for prayers to Israel's God on his behalf. Other times Jefferson seemed to go out of his way to be irreverent and disrespectful of organized Christianity, especially Calvinism.

It's clear that Thomas Jefferson was no evangelical, but neither was he an Enlightenment deist. He was more Unitarian than either deist or Christian.[3]

This analysis, though, misses the point. The most important factor regarding the faith of Thomas Jefferson--or any of our Founding Fathers--isn't whether or not he had a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The debate over the religious heritage of this country is not about who is ultimately going to heaven, but rather about what the dominant convictions were that dictated the structure of this nation.

Even today there are legions of born-again Christians who have absolutely no skill at integrating their beliefs about Christ with the details of their daily life, especially their views of government. They may be "saved," but they are completely ineffectual as salt and light.

By contrast, some of the Fathers may not have been believers in the narrowest sense of the term, yet in the broader sense--the sense that influences culture--their thinking was thoroughly Christian. Unlike many evangelicals who live lives of practical atheism, these men had political ideals that were deeply informed by a robust Christian world view. They didn't always believe biblically, having a faith leading to salvation, but almost all thought biblically, resulting in a particular type of government.

Thomas Jefferson was this kind of man. In Defending the Declaration, legal historian Gary Amos observes, "Jefferson is a notable example of how a man can be influenced by biblical ideas and Christian principles even though he never confessed Jesus Christ as Lord in the evangelical sense."[4]

What Did the Founding Fathers Believe and Value?
When you study the documents of the Revolutionary period, a precise picture comes into focus. Here it is:

 

  • Virtually all those involved in the founding enterprise were God-fearing men in the Christian sense; most were Calvinistic Protestants.
  • The Founders were deeply influenced by a biblical view of man and government. With a sober understanding of the fallenness of man, they devised a system of limited authority and checks and balances.
  • The Founders understood that fear of God, moral leadership, and a righteous citizenry were necessary for their great experiment to succeed.
  • Therefore, they structured a political climate that was encouraging to Christianity and accommodating to religion, rather than hostile to it.
  • Protestant Christianity was the prevailing religious view for the first 150 years of our history.

In other words...

 

  • The Fathers sought to set up a just society that was philosophically Biblical, not a Christian theocracy.
  • They specifically prohibited the establishment of Christianity--or any other faith--as the religion of our nation.
  • Their goal was an institutionally separated, not a philosophically separated government knowing full well that no man or group of men culd ever effect such.

 

A Two-Sided Coin

We can safely draw two conclusions from these facts, which serve to inform our understanding of the relationship between religion and government in the United States.

First, Christianity was the prevailing moral and intellectual influence shaping the nation from its outset. The Christian influence pervaded all aspects of life, from education to politics. Therefore, the present concept of a rigid wall of separation hardly seems historically justified.

Virtually every one of the Founders saw a vital link between civil religion and civil government. George Washington's admonitions in his Farewell Speech, September 19, 1796, were characteristic of the general sentiment:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports....And let us indulge with caution the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.[5]

Second, the Founders stopped short of giving their Christian religion a position of legal privilege. In the tradition of the early church, believers were to be salt and light. The First Amendment insured the liberty needed for Christianity to be a preserving influence and a moral beacon, but it also insured Christianity would never be the law of the land.

This ought to call into serious question a common tactic of the so-called Religious Right. "We were here first," their apologists proclaim. "Our country was stolen from us, and we demand it back." Author John Seel calls this "priority as entitlement."

The sad fact of the matter is that cultural authority was not stolen from us; we surrendered it through neglect. Os Guinness pointed out that Christians have not been out-thought. Rather, they have not been around when the thinking was being done.

Choosing cultural monasticism rather than hard-thinking advocacy, Christians abandoned the public square to the secularists and post modernists. When the disciples of Jesus Christ retreated, the disciples of Dewey, Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, Skinner, and a host of others replaced them.

Seel warns of the liability of an "appeal to history as a basis of Christian grounds to authority."[6] Playing the victim will not restore our influence, nor will political strong-arm tactics. Shouldn't our appeal rather be on the basis of truth rather than on the patterns of the past?

The faith of our Founding Fathers was Christianity, not deism. In this regard, many secularists--and even some Christians--have been wrong in their assessment of our history. On the other hand, many Christians have also been mistaken in their application of the past to the present.

Christians have no special privileges simply because Christianity was America's first faith. "If America ever was or ever will be a 'Christian nation,'" Seel observes, "it is not by conscious design or written law, but by free conviction."[7]

Success for the Christian cannot be measured in numbers or political muscle, but only in faithfulness. Our most important weapon is not our voting power, but the power of the truth freely spoken and freely heard.

 

Recommended Reading:

Let Freedom Ring--A Basic Outline of American History, available through the Family Research Council, 700 Thirteenth St., N.W., Suite 500, Washington D.C. 20005,             1-800-225-4008      

The Light and the Glory, Peter Marshall and David Manuel (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1977)

Christianity and the Constitution--The Faith of Our Founding Fathers, John Eidsmoe (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987)

Defending the Declaration--How the Bible and Christianity Influenced the Writing of the Declaration of Independence, Gary T. Amos (Brentwood, TN: Wogelmuth & Hyatt, 1989)

Positive Neutrality: Letting Religious Freedom Ring, Stephen T. Monsma, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993)


[1] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), p. 43.

[2] Benjamin Franklin, quoted by James Madison in Notes on Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1966, 1985), p. 209.

[3] Eidsmoe has a very thorough and even-handed section on Jefferson.

[4] Gary T. Amos, Defending the Declaration, (Brentwood, TN: Wogelmuth & Hyatt, 1989), p. 9.

[5] The Annals of America, (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976), vol. 3, p. 612.

[6] John Seel, No God But God--Breaking with the Idols of Our Age, Os Guinness and John Seel, eds., (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), p. 64.

[7] John Seel, No God But God--Breaking with the Idols of Our Age, Os Guinness and John Seel, eds., (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), p. 69.

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Cudos: Thanks muchly to Stand to Reason for the above (with my additions and edits).

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Briefs and Quotes

 

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch...One if by land, two if by sea..."
These lines are from the poem, Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born FEBRUARY 27, 1807.  
An American poet and Harvard Professor, Longfellow wrote such American classics as: The Song of Hiawatha; The Courtship of Miles Standish; and Evangeline,in which he penned:  
"Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice triumphs."  This of course, was in reference to the Cajuns and their great sufferings in their cruel Diaspora from Nova Scotia, Canada forced upon them by the“Bloody British” who murdered 1/3 of them in the mid 18th century.  
> In A Psalm of Life, 1838, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
"Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal;  Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul...In the world's broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,-act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o'erhead!  
Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time;
 Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again."


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                                       M.L.King, Jr.

"The Church is the conscience of the state"

 

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 Richard Stockton,signer of The Declaration of Independence,his grandson help found Liberia, West Africa

His grandson, Robert, was the U.S. Navy Commodore who along with Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee helped freed slaves found Liberia, West Africa.  These men and others are listed as the founders of the Civil Rights movement.  In 1846 Robert captured California, and the city of Stockton is named for him.  
  His brother-in-law, Elias Boudinot, was a Continental Congress President and founder of the American Bible Society.
  His daughter married Declaration Signer Benjamin Rush.
  His name was Richard Stockton.  After he signed the Declaration of Independence, the British invaded New Jersey forcing him to move his family for safety.
 
Richard Stockton was betrayed, dragged from his bed at night and imprisoned in New York.

  His farm was pillaged and his library, one of the best in the country, was burned.
  His health broken from over a year in the British prison, Richard Stockton died bankrupt at age 51, FEBRUARY 28, 1781.
  New Jersey placed his statue in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall.
  Richard Stockton wrote in his Will:

  "As my children...may be peculiarly impressed with the last words of their father, I think proper here, not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great leading doctrine of the Christian religion...but also in the heart of a father's affection, to exhort them to remember 'that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'"
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                  Articles of Confederation

  What was the government in the United States before the U.S. Constitution was written?
It was the Articles of Confederation, ratified by the States MARCH 1, 1781.  Signed by such statesmen as John Hancock and Samuel Adams, it was an attempt to loosely knit the thirteen States together.
The Articles of Confederation declared:
"Whereas the delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of Our Lord, 1777, and in the second year of the independence of America agree on certain Articles of Confederation and perpetual union between the States...
The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force...or attacks made upon them...on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense."
     The Articles end with this line:
"It has pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the Legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation."

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Santa Ana's Executions & Texas Independence
 COURAGE:

 The Alamomission at San Antonio was in its 7th day of being assaulted by thousands of Santa Anna's troops.  By the 13th day, Santa Anna's "take-no-prisoner" policy had all 189 defenders killed, including Jim Bowie and former U.S. Congressman
Davy Crockett.

The only Texas army left in the field was Col. James Fannin's.  It departed Goliad to rescue the Alamo but was surrounded in open ground and captured. Santa Anna ordered all 350 prisoners executed.  When the Mexican officer hesitated, Santa Anna sent another officer who carried out the order.  Had Fannin's troops been left in prison, Texas would have been disheartened, but instead Santa Anna's cruelty aroused world outrage.
The Texas Declaration of Independence, signed MARCH 2, 1836, stated:
 "When a government...becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression....(it is) the inherent and inalienable right of the people to...take their political affairs into their own hands...to secure their welfare and happiness....
The government (of) General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna...demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defense- the rightful property of freemen- and formidable only to tyrannical governments...has, through its emissaries, incited the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenseless frontiers...(Comanche Indians)
We fearlessly...commit the issue to the...Supreme Arbiter of the destinies of nations."
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The Star Spangled Banner

                                                                                                     by Francis Scot Key

War of 1812, Ft McHenry, Baltimore Maryland

- The National Motto:  “IN GOD WE TRUST”       

Origins of:
     The Star Spangled Banner
"O thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land,
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto IN GOD IS OUR TRUST!And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave  
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

As a prisoner on a British Ship, Francis Scot Key observed the Navalbombardment on thehapless Americans after the enemy had justsacked and burned down Washington DC.  Inspired by thisGodly Great Courage of ourPatriotic forebears who stacked the bodies of their dead Band of brothers around the giant American Flag Pole to hold it up to as a bold statement that they would never give up to TYRANY, Keywas then moved to such Sacred verse, now our National Anthem!!  That is military PSYOP on spiritual steroids… the British left.   
 
This 4th verse of The National AntheminspiredCongress, MARCH 3, 1865, to place the motto on the nation's coins.  
House Speaker Schuyler Colfaxnoted:
"The last act of Congress ever signed by President Lincolnwas one requiring that the motto...'In God We Trust' should hereafter be inscribed upon all our national coin."
>
Trumanstated October 30, 1949:
 "When the U.S. was established...the motto was IN GOD WE TRUST. That is still our motto and we still place our firm trust in God.">
JFKstated February 9, 1961:
"The guiding principle of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be IN GOD WE TRUST."

>
Reaganstated March 19, 1981:
"Our Nation's motto...reflects a basic recognition that there is a Divine Authorityin the universe to which this nation owes homage."


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       ~The Boston Massacre~

Colonists were forced to house British soldiers.  
 On MARCH 5, 1770, a crowd protested and in the confusion British soldiers fired, killing five,one being Crispus Attucks, the most famous African America who participated in the Revolution.  Paul Revere'spopular engraving of the Boston Massacre fanned flames of anti-British sentiment.
 Joseph Warren,the President of the Massachusetts Congress who sent Paul Revereon his midnight ride, stated on the 2nd anniversary of the Massacre, 1772:
 "If you perform your part, you must have the strongest confidence that the same Almighty Beingwho protected your pious and venerable forefathers...will still be mindful of you...May our land be a land of liberty...until the last shock of time shall bury the empires of the world in one common undistinguishable ruin!"
 John Hancock,first to sign the Declaration of Independence, stated on the 4th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, 1774:
      "Let us play the man for our GOD, and for the cities of our GOD... By a faithful discharge of our duty to our country, let us joyfully leave her important concerns in the hands of HIM who raiseth up and putteth down empires and kingdomsof the world as HE pleases."


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Dorchester Heights & the Cannons of Col. Henry Knox
 
25-year-old Colonel Henry Knox unbelievably moved 59 cannons 300 miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. On the night of March 4, 1776, with wagon wheels wrapped in straw to muffle the noise, the cannons were strategically put on Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor.                                                  The next morning, British troops were shocked!
On MARCH 6, 1776, General Washingtonordered:
"Thursday...being set apart by...this Province as a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation,
'to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold
sins and wickedness, and that it would please Him to bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,' all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence on that day to the sacred duties of the Lord of hosts."
On March 17, amidst a violent storm, British General Howe evacuated his ships and 3,000 men from Boston. General Washington wrote to his brother, John Augustine Washington, March 31, 1776:  "Upon their discovery of the works next morning, great preparations were made for attacking them; but not being ready before the afternoon, and the weather getting very tempestuous, much blood was saved and a very important blow...prevented.  That this most remarkable Interposition of Providence is for somewise purpose, I have not a doubt."
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What great things came from Raleigh Tavern!
The European Enlightenment was born in the elitist coffee houses of Paris; and the American republicas born in a commoners’ tavern!

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          -Boston Harbor blocked –

         ~Jefferson called for Fasting & Prayer~
 
> The King punished the colonists for the Boston Tea Party.
 He passed the Boston Port Act, MARCH 7, 1774, effectively closing the harbor to all commerce, intentionally ruining their economy.  Surrounding towns rallied by sending food.
 William Prescott, who later commanded at Bunker Hill, wrote:
 "Providencehas placed you where you must stand the first shock....If we submit to these regulations, all is gone."
William Prescott continued:  "Our forefatherspassed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity....Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed?"
Upon hearing of the Boston Port Act, Thomas Jeffersonled the Virginia House of Burgesses, May 24, 1774, to proclaim a Day ofFasting & Prayer, stating:"This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension...from the hostile invasion of the city of Bostonin our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first day of June next, to be stopped by an armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House, as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights."The King appointed Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, was so upset by thisDay of Fasting & Prayer resolution that two days later he dissolved Virginia's House of Burgesses.
Virginia's colonial leaders went down the street and gathered in Raleigh Tavern, where they decided to form a Continental Congress,which two years later would vote forindependence from theKing inThe Declaration of Independence.


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Cudos: Thanks muchly to American Minute with Bill Federer for the above (with my additions and edits).

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"For God so LOVED the world, that He GAVE His only begotten SON, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in Him shall NOT PERISH, but have EVERLASTING LIFE !!"  John 3:16