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A Founding Father and President – Elias Boudinot

February 22nd, 2012

Elias Boudinot

When you think of the Founding Fathers of our country certain popular and well-known names come to mind. The fact is there are many Founding Fathers with names we may never have heard. Some of these were very influential in shaping our country, and one is Elias Boudinot.

The most important fact about Elias Boudinot, as you will read,  is the clear-cut establishment of Christianity in the founding of the American society, its laws and Constitution.

Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) is a name not known by many. Would it surprise you that he was President? Probably the biggest surprise is that we had Presidents before George Washington, and Boudinot was the tenth President of the Continental Congress in 1782-1783.1

Elias Boudinot was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 2nd 1740 and died in Burlington, New Jersey October 24th, 1821. His great-grandfather, Elias, was a French Huguenot, who fled to this country after the revocation of the decree of Nantes. After receiving a Liberal Arts education, Elias Boudinot studied law with Richard Stockton of New Jersey and became distinguished in this profession in the early 1770’s. Boudinot was dutiful to the cause of independence in New Jersey, serving as a member of the Committee of Correspondence for Essex County in 1774. He often used his influence and great legal mind to persuade the New Jersey Provincial Congress to approve the resolutions of the Continental Congress and the United States in Congress Assembled. Boudinot was appointed NJ Commissary-General of Prisoners in 1777. In the same year he was elected a delegate to Continental Congress from New Jersey, serving from 1778 until 1779. He also served in the United States in Congress Assembled from 1781 until 1784.

Boudinot, a wealthily New Jersey lawyer and leader of the Presbyterian Church, won the presidency by a narrow margin The delegate count was 16 to 11. The law however of One state One Vote ended the tally seven states to four and two states not voting.

The other four states cast their votes for three different southern delegates. Eliphalet Dyer wrote to Jonathan Trumbull, November 8, 1782:

 Mr. Boudinot of the State of New Jersey, a gebtn of good character, virtuous, and decent behavior, was elected President of Congress on Monday last for the year ensuing; the choice was clear, no strift, as it is the prevailing inclination of Congress, to proceed in course through the States when it can be done with propriety, Jersey having none before.2

Boudinot was elected President of the United States in Congress Assembled on November 4th, 1782. Boudinot was a humble man who did not seek position or stature. Yet, his diplomacy, manner, and intelligence had a great influence as a Founding Father.

Justice Rehnquist, in his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), listed Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) as one of the Christian founding fathers whose views contributed to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Boudinot is one example proving the authenticity of America’s Christian heritage. He set out his Christian viewpoint in The Age of Revelation (excerpted below), which was a pamphlet, written as a letter to his daughter in 1795, to uphold Christian beliefs and to refute Thomas Paine’s pamphlet (The Age of Reason) which advocated “the religion of nature” and sought to discredit the accuracy and infallibility of the Bible. (Boudinot, in contrast, upheld the Bible’s accuracy.) At the time Boudinot wrote this pamphlet, he was the Director of the United States Mint.

Consider this Boudinot statement: “There is no other instance (than that of the Mosaic code) of a body of laws being produced at once, and remaining without addition afterwards….” American society (including its early laws) were based primarily on Christianity, which in turn was based on the Mosaic code (the Ten Commandments). That was the view of many Early Americans, including founders like Elias Boudinot, who certainly would know their own generation better than we would.3

Earlier, in 1782, Boudinot was a member of the third (final) committee to design the Great Seal of the United States (especially the Coat of Arms portion). This committee turned the task of designing the United States Coat of Arms over to attorney William Barton, an expert in heraldry, upon whose knowledge the committee depended.3

When the United States government was formed in 1789, New Jersey sent Boudinot to the House of Representatives. He was elected to the second and third congresses as well, where he generally supported the administration, but refused to join the growing forces that led to formal political parties. In 1794, he declined to serve another term, and left Congress in early 1795. In October 1795, President Washington appointed him the Director of the United States Mint, a position he held until his retirement in 1805. He was scrupulous in his accounting, as reported to Congress, and left the US Mint in excellent order for the future.

In addition to serving in political office, Elias supported many civic, religious, and educational causes during his life. In Revolutionary times, Princeton was the College of New Jersey, and Boudinot served as one of its trustees for nearly half a century, from 1772 until 1821. When the Continental Congress was forced to leave Philadelphia in 1783 while he was its president, he moved the meetings to Princeton, where they met in the University’s Nassau Hall.

A devout Presbyterian, Boudinot supported missions and missionary work. He was one of the founders of the American Bible Society, and served as its President after 1816. He argued for the rights of black and American Indian citizens, and sponsored students to the Board School for Indians in Connecticut. One of these, a young Cherokee named Gallegina Watie, stayed with him while traveling to the school. The two so impressed each other that Gallegina asked for and was given permission to use his name. He later was known as Elias Boudinot.4

 1 There were 16 presidents of Congress. John Hanson (#9) was the first President elected under the terms of the Articles of Confederation with Boudinot being the second Continental Congress President. The presiding officer of the Continental Congress was usually styled “President of the Congress” or “President of Congress.” After the Articles of Confederation were adopted on March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress, previously officially known as simply “The Congress”, became officially known as “The United States in Congress Assembled.” Thereafter, the president was referred to as the “President of the United States in Congress Assembled”, although “President of (the) Congress” was used in some official documents.

2  Read his letters and other correspondence at http://eliasboudinot.com/

3 Belcher Foundation, ©2001, All Rights Reserved; http://www.belcherfoundation.org/boudinot.htm

4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Boudinot

 

ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN

October 24th, 2011

Abraham Lincoln

Historians have argued whether or not Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s best-known presidents, ever became a committed Christian. As a youth Lincoln mocked the scriptures. After the death of his favorite son, Willie, he groped for some hope which could give him solace. His wife Mary and he attended seances, but eventually renounced them as fraudulent. The cares and trials of the war drove Lincoln increasingly to his Bible.

As a youth, Lincoln mocked the scriptures. After the death of his favorite son, Willie, he groped for some hope that could give him solace. His wife Mary and he attended séances, but eventually renounced them as fraudulent. The cares and trials of the war drove Lincoln increasingly to his Bible. Increasingly he saw himself as an instrument of the Lord’s will, inscrutable though that might be.

His lifelong friend Joshua Speed remembered, “As I entered the room near night, [Lincoln] was sitting near a window reading his Bible. Approaching him, I said, ‘I am glad to see you profitably engaged.’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I am profitably engaged.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you have recovered from your skepticism I am sorry to say that I have not!’ Looking me earnestly in the face, and placing his hand upon my shoulder, he said: ‘You are wrong Speed; take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.'”

He wrestled to understand why the North continued to lose although its cause, the abolition of slavery and preservation of the union, seemed the more justifiable side. In the end, in a note not written for public consumption, Lincoln concluded that …1

 “The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Like a figure from Israel’s ancient history, Lincoln was arguing with God. But it was no longer a domesticated deity, an American God, but the ruler of the nations. The truth had begun to dawn to Lincoln that this God was not at the nation’s beck and call, but the nation at his. His thinking was beginning to diverge from the paths followed by Beecher, Dabney, and the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries.2

He issued a proclamation in the Northern States for a day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting “to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities. … It is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy…3

1 Dan Graves, MSL, President Lincoln’s Fast (Christianitytoday.com)

2 Mark A. Knoll, The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln (Christianitytoday.com)

 3 Dan Graves, MSL, President Lincoln’s Fast (Christianitytoday.com)

Bibliography:

  1. Current, Richard N. The Lincoln Nobody Knows. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.
  2. Gross, Ernie. This Day in Religion. New York, N.Y. : Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1990.
  3. Lincoln, Abraham. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler; Marion Dolores Pratt and Lloyd A. Dunlap, assistant editors. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953 – 1955.

FIRST NEW ENGLAND HISTORY

October 5th, 2011

We have read about the signing of the Mayflower Compact. One can imagine that it was crowded in that small ship when they gathered with wives and children to watch the 41 men sign the Mayflower Compact. It was a profound moment and a model of self-government and was the beginning of our country as a Christian nation. God and his law were guiding the basic and simple principles in the Compact.

The New England's Memorial_1669 Edition

To get a first-hand history, we are going to rely on a book written by Nathaniel Morton. The book, The New England’s Memorial, along with William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation comprise of a comprehensive history of the Plymouth Colony.

From December 1645 until his death, Morton was annually elected Secretary of Plymouth Colony, and most of the colony records are in his handwriting. His careful maintenance of the records enabled him [to] compile New England’s Memorial, considered the first comprehensive history of the colony, published at Cambridge in 1669 – and widely considered the first book of history published in the United States. Much of Memorial was based on the history of the colony written by Morton’s uncle, Gov. Bradford, a manuscript that was lost for many years following the American Revolutionary War, when it was likely appropriated by an English soldier. It later turned up in the library of the Bishop of London in 1855, and was returned to Massachusetts.

Morton also wrote First Beginnings and After Progress of the Church of Christ at Plymouth, in New England. Annually since 1961, The Wall Street Journal publishes an excerpt from Morton’s history of Plymouth Colony as an op-ed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day.

Morton was also the first to record the list of signers of the Mayflower Compact in his work of 1669. The document itself was lost.

Nathaniel Morton was born in England in 1613 and immigrated to Plymouth with his father on the ship Ann in 1623. After his father’s premature death, Nathaniel was taken into the household of his Uncle William Bradford, then governor of Plymouth.

Morton married Lydia Cooper (1615-23 Sep 1673) on 25 Dec 1635. They had nine children: Remember, Mercy, Hannah, Eleazer, Lydia, Nathaniel, a stillborn daughter, Elizabeth and Joanna. After the death of Lydia, Nathaniel married Anne Pritchard (ca. 1624-26 Dec 1691). Remember Morton, daughter of Nathaniel Morton, married Abraham Jackson of Plymouth, another initial proprietor of the colony. Their descendant Lydia Jackson became the second wife of philosopher, poet and Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.1

Many scholars consider the Bradford history the better-written volume of the two, and some even classify Morton’s book as an abridgment of his uncle’s work.2

For the early years he drew directly on his uncle’s book, transcribing large portions of it. Until the discovery of the Fulham manuscript, Morton’s book was the best source for Bradford’s text. The part which was concerned with the years following Bradford was written by Morton himself, and is meagre and disappointing, but Johnson and he were long the standard historians for the average New Englander. They may be considered the last of the early group, and in their manner and purposes they looked forward to the second group, men who were either born in America or who arrived after the American ideals were well enough formed to master the newcomers.3

Nathaniel Morton, in his Dedication to the Right Worshipful, Thomas Prince, Esq., Governor of the Jurisdiction of New Plymouth; with The Worshipful, The Magistrates, his assistants in the said government; wrote “N.M. wisheth Peace and Prosperity in this life, and Eternal Happiness in that which to come.” He stated the reason of writing was “…to commemorize to future generations the memorable passages of God’s providence to us and our predecessors in the beginning of this plantation …”4

Morton states the Plymouth colony came about by God’s will; “I have made bold to present your Worships with, and to publish to the world, something of the very first beginnings of the great actions of God in New England, begun at New Plimoth”5 He ties God’s will with the founding of Plymouth and New England; “I should gladly have spoken more particularly of the neighboring united colonies, whose ends and aims in their transplanting of themselves and families, were the same with ours, viz.., the glory of God, the propagation of the gospel, and enlargement of his Majesty’s dominions;” Morton closes his dedication statement by sealing that he not only sees God’s will directing them, but the foundation of Plymouth and other colonies is a ‘City on the Hill’, a divine manifest destiny of our new country; “Your good acceptance whereof, shall ever oblige me to answerable returning of gratitude, and administer to me further cause of thankfulness, that God hath given me an habitation under your just and prudent administrations; and wish for a succession of such as may be skillful to lead our Israel in this their peregrination; and when God shall take you hence, to receive the crown of your labors and travels.”5

Nathaniel Morton addresses the readers as “Christian Reader” and states “Grace and Peace be multiplied; with profit by this following narration.”  The spirit of this world absolutely rejects God. To say that we are a Christian nation nearly stirs up hatred. Yet, we see Nathaniel Morton clearly declaring in his history [for future generations] it was God’s Will.  His letter to the Christian Reader clarifies the godly foundation of our country. This is from the original 1669 book:

Gentle Reader,

I have for some length of time looked upon it as a duty incumbent, especially on the immediate successors of those that have had so large experience of those many memorable and signal demonstrations of God’s goodness, viz. The first beginners of this plantation in New-England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not only otherwise, but so plentifully in the sacred Scriptures, that so, what we have seen, and what our fathers have told us, we may not hide from our children, shewing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord. Psal. 78. 3, 4. That especially the seed of Abraham his servant, and the children of Jacob his chosen, may remember his marvellous works (Psal. 105. 5, 6.) in the beginning and progress of the planting of New-England, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; how that God brought a vine into this w^ilderness; that he cast out the heathen and planted it; and he also made room for it, and he caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land; so that it hath sent forth it’s boughs to the sea, and it’s branches to the river. Psal. 80. 8, 9. And not only 30, but also that He hath guided his people by his strength to his holy habitation, and planted them in the mountain of his inheritance, (Exod. 15. 13.) in respect of precious gospel-enjoyments. So that we may not only look back to former experiences of God’s goodness to our predecessors,”* (though many years before) and so have our faith strengthened in the mercies of God for our times; that so the Church being one numerical body, might not only even for the time he spake with us in our forefathers, (Hos. 12. 4.) by many gracious manifestations of his glorious attributes, Wisdom, Goodness, and Truth, improved for their good, but also rejoyce in present enjoyments of both outward and spirituall mercies, as fruits of their prayers, tears, travels and labours; that as especially God may have the glory of all, unto whom it is most due; so also some rays of glory may reach the names of those blessed saints that were the main instruments of the beginning of this happy enterprize.

So then, gentle Reader, thou mayest take notice, that the main ends of publishing this small history, IS, that God may have his due praise, his servants the mstrumcnts have their names embalmed, and the present and future ages may have the fruit and benefit of God’s great work in the relation of the first planting of New-England. Which ends, if attained, will be great cause of rcjoycing to the publisher thereof, if Psal. G6. C. God give him life and opportunity to take notice thereof.

The method I have observed, is (as I could) in some measure answerable to the ends aforenamed, in inserting some acknowledgement of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and truth upon special occasions, with allusion to the Scriptures; and also taking notice of some special instruments, and such main and special particulars as were pej’spicuouslj remarkable, in way of commendation in them, so far as my intelligence would reach; and especially in a faithful commemorizing, and declaration of God’s wonderful works for, by, and to his people, in preparing a place for them by driving out the heathen before them; bringing them through a sea of troubles; preserving and protecting them from, and in those dangers that attended them in their low estate, when they were strangers in the land; and making this howling wilderness a chamber of rest, safety, and pleasantness, whiles the storms of his displeasure have not only tossed, but endangered the overwhelming of great states and kingdoms, and hath now made it to us a fruitful land, sowed it with the seed of man and beast; but especially in giving us so long a peace, together with the Gospel of peace, and so great a freedom in our civil and religious enjoyments; and also in giving us hopes that we may be instruments in his hands, not only of enlarging of our prince’s dominions, but to enlarge the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, in the conversion of the poor blind natives.

And now, courteous Reader, that I may not hold thee too long in the porch, I only crave of thee to read this following discourse with a single eye, and with the same ends as I had in penning it. Let not the smallness of our beginnings, nor weakness of instruments, make the thing seem little, or the work despicable, but on the contrary, let the greater praise be rendered unto God, who hath effected great things by small means. Let not the harshness of my style, prejudice thy taste or appetite to the dish I present thee with. Accept it as freely as I give it. Carp not at what thou dost not approve, but use it as a remembrance of the Lord’s goodness, to engage to true thankfulness and obedience; so it may be a help to thee in thy journey through the wilderness of this world, to that eternal rest which is only to be found in the heavenly Canaan, which is the earnest desire of

Thy Christian friend,

Nathaniel Morton.6

1  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Morton

2 IBID, footnote

3 The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I; II. The Historians, 1607-1783, 9. Nathaniel Morton; http://www.bartleby.com/225/0209.html

4 Nathaniel Morton, Epistle Dedicatory, The New England’s Memorial, p1 (Cambridge: Printed by S.G. and M.J. for John Usher of Boston, 1669)

5 IBID, p2, 3

6 Nathaniel Morton, Christian Reader, The New England’s Memorial, p1 (Cambridge: Printed by S.G. and M.J. for John Usher of Boston, 1669)

HOUSE RESOLUTION AFFIRMS OUR SPIRITUAL AND RELIGIOUS HISTORY

May 11th, 2010

Many members of the United States House of Representatives have submitted a House Resolution to establish the first week of May as a”American Religious History Week”. To date, the Resolution has not emerged out of Committee. Nevertheless, the Resolution outlines our rich religious history. Here it is for your reading.

HRES 888 IH
110th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. RES. 888

Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as ‘American Religious History Week’  for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
December 18, 2007
Mr. FORBES (for himself, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mr. AKIN, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. CULBERSON, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. FEENEY, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. HAYES, Mr. HENSARLING, Mr. HERGER, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. MCHENRY, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mr. PEARCE, Mr. PENCE, Mr. PITTS, Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin, Mrs. SCHMIDT, Mr. WALBERG, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. WOLF, and Mr. YOUNG of Florida) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

RESOLUTION
Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as ‘American Religious History Week’  for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

Whereas religious faith was not only important in official American life during the periods of discovery, exploration, colonization, and growth but has also been acknowledged and incorporated into all 3 branches of American Federal government from their very beginning;

Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this self-evident fact in a unanimous ruling declaring ‘This is a religious people … From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation’;

Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently-cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;

Whereas the first act of America’s first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of 4 chapters of the Bible;

Whereas Congress regularly attended church and Divine service together en masse;

Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;

Whereas in 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the Creator (‘All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’), the Lawgiver (‘the laws of nature and nature’s God’), the Judge (`appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world’), and the Protector (‘with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence’);

Whereas upon approving the Declaration of Independence, John Adams declared that the Fourth of July `ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty’;

Whereas 4 days after approving the Declaration, the Liberty Bell was rung;

Whereas the Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: `Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof’;

Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of ‘Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,’ announced that they ‘desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement’ and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported ‘into the different ports of the States of the Union’;

Whereas in 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be ‘a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools’ and therefore approved the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that `the United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States’;

Whereas in 1782, Congress adopted (and has reaffirmed on numerous subsequent occasions) the National Seal with its Latin motto ‘Annuit Coeptis,’ meaning ‘God has favored our undertakings,’ along with the eye of Providence in a triangle over a pyramid, the eye and the motto `allude to the many signal interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause’;

Whereas the 1783 Treaty of Paris that officially endied the Revolution and established America as an independent begins with the appellation `In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity’;

Whereas in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin declared, `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? … Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel’;

Whereas the delegates to the Constitutional Convention concluded their work by in effect placing a religious punctuation mark at the end of the Constitution in the Attestation Clause, noting not only that they had completed the work with `the unanimous consent of the States present’ but they had done so `in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven’;

Whereas James Madison declared that he saw the finished Constitution as a product of `the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution,’ and George Washington viewed it as `little short of a miracle,’ and Benjamin Franklin believed that its writing had been `influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in Whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being’;

Whereas from 1787 to 1788, State conventions to ratify the United States Constitution not only began with prayer but even met in church buildings;

Whereas in 1795 during construction of the Capitol, a practice was instituted whereby `public worship is now regularly administered at the Capitol, every Sunday morning, at 11 o’clock’;

Whereas in 1789, the first Federal Congress, the Congress that framed the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, appropriated Federal funds to pay chaplains to pray at the opening of all sessions, a practice that has continued to this day, with Congress not only funding its congressional chaplains but also the salaries and operations of more than 4,500 military chaplains;

Whereas in 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first Federal law touching education, declaring that `Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged’;

Whereas in 1789, on the same day that Congress finished drafting the First Amendment, it requested President Washington to declare a National day of prayer and thanksgiving, resulting in the first Federal official Thanksgiving proclamation that declared `it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor’;

Whereas in 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard `all ships and vessels in the navy,’ with a sermon preached each Sunday;

Whereas in 1800, Congress approved the use of the just-completed Capitol structure as a church building, with Divine services to be held each Sunday in the Hall of the House, alternately administered by the House and Senate chaplains;

Whereas in 1853 Congress declared that congressional chaplains have a `duty … to conduct religious services weekly in the Hall of the House of Representatives’;
Whereas by 1867, the church at the Capitol was the largest church in Washington, DC, with up to 2,000 people a week attending Sunday service in the Hall of the House;

Whereas by 1815, over 2,000 official governmental calls to prayer had been issued at both the State and the Federal levels, with thousands more issued since 1815;

Whereas in 1853 the United States Senate declared that the Founding Fathers `had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people … they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy’;

Whereas in 1854 the United States House of Representatives declared `It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests … Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions’;

Whereas, in 1864, by law Congress added `In God We Trust’ to American coinage;

Whereas in 1864, Congress passed an act authorizing each State to display statues of 2 of its heroes in the United States Capitol, resulting in numerous statues of noted Christian clergymen and leaders at the Capitol, including Gospel ministers such as the Revs. James A. Garfield, John Peter Muhlenberg, Jonathan Trumbull, Roger Williams, Jason Lee, Marcus Whitman, and Martin Luther King Jr.; Gospel theologians such as Roger Sherman; Catholic priests such as Father Damien, Jacques Marquette, Eusebio Kino, and Junipero Serra; Catholic nuns such as Mother Joseph; and numerous other religious leaders;

Whereas in 1870, the Federal government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme Court as `acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries’) and Thanksgiving as official holidays;

Whereas beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained;

Whereas in 1931, Congress by law adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the official National Anthem, with its phrases such as `may the Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,’ and `this be our motto, `In God is our trust!’;

Whereas in 1954, Congress by law added the phrase `one nation under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance;

Whereas in 1954 a special Congressional Prayer Room was added to the Capitol with a kneeling bench, an altar, an open Bible, an inspiring stained-glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer, the declaration of Psalm 16:1: ‘Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust,’ and the phrase ‘This Nation Under God’ displayed above the kneeling, prayerful Washington;

Whereas in 1956, Congress by law made `In God We Trust’ the National Motto, and added the phrase to American currency;

Whereas the constitutions of each of the 50 states, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God;

Whereas America’s first Presidential Inauguration incorporated 7 specific religious activities, including–

(1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath;

(2) affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer `So help me God!’ to the oath;

(3) inaugural prayers offered by the President;

(4) religious content in the inaugural address;

(5) civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgement of God;

(6) inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities; and

(7) clergy-led inaugural prayers, activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent President;

Whereas President George Washington declared `Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports’;

Whereas President John Adams, one of only 2 signers of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment, declared `As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him’;

Whereas President Jefferson not only attended Divine services at the Capitol throughout his presidency and had the Marine Band play at the services, but during his administration church services were also begun in the War Department and the Treasury Department, thus allowing worshippers on any given Sunday the choice to attend church at either the United States Capitol, the War Department, or the Treasury Department if they so desired;

Whereas Thomas Jefferson urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, provided Federal funding for missionary work among Indian tribes, and declared that religious schools would receive ‘the patronage of the government’;

Whereas President Andrew Jackson declared that the Bible ‘is the rock on which our Republic rests’;

Whereas President Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible ‘is the best gift God has given to men … But for it, we could not know right from wrong’
Whereas President William McKinley declared that ‘Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps’;

Whereas President Teddy Roosevelt declared `The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort to better either our social or our political life’;

Whereas President Woodrow Wilson declared that `America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture’;

Whereas President Herbert Hoover declared that `American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon … [the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago’;

Whereas President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the Nation in a 6 minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944, but he also declared that If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction’;

Whereas President Harry S. Truman declared that ‘The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul’;

Whereas President Harry S. Truman told a group touring Washington, DC, that ‘You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. … You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand’;

Whereas President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that `Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first,the most basic, expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be’ in a declaration later repeated with approval by President Gerald Ford;

Whereas President John F. Kennedy declared that `The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God’;

Whereas President Ronald Reagan, after noting `The Congress of the United States, in recognition of the unique contribution of the Bible in shaping the history and character of this Nation and so many of its citizens, has … requested the President to designate the year 1983 as the `Year of the Bible’,’ officially declared 1983 as `The Year of the Bible’;

Whereas every other President has similarly recognized the role of God and religious faith in the public life of America;

Whereas all sessions of the United States Supreme Court begin with the Court’s Marshal announcing, `God save the United States and this honorable court’;
Whereas a regular and integral part of official activities in the Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, was the inclusion of prayer by a minister of the Gospel;

Whereas the United States Supreme Court has declared throughout the course of our Nation’s history that the United States is `a Christian country’, `a Christian nation’, `a Christian people’, `a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being’, and that `we cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion’;

Whereas Justice John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and original Justice of the United States Supreme Court, urged ‘The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the Source from which they flow’;

Whereas Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine … Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants’;

Whereas Justice William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Religion and morality … [are] necessary to good government, good order, and good laws’;

Whereas President George Washington, who passed into law the first legal acts organizing the Federal judiciary, asked, `where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths in the courts of justice?’;

Whereas some of the most important monuments, buildings, and landmarks in Washington, DC, include religious words, symbols, and imagery;

Whereas in the United States Capitol the declaration `In God We Trust’ is prominently displayed in both the United States House and Senate Chambers;

Whereas around the top of the walls in the House Chamber appear images of 23 great lawgivers from across the centuries, but Moses (the lawgiver, who–according to the Bible–originally received the law from God,) is the only lawgiver honored with a full face view, looking down on the proceedings of the House;

Whereas religious artwork is found throughout the United States Capitol, including in the Rotunda where the prayer service of Christopher Columbus, the Baptism of Pocahontas, and the prayer and Bible study of the Pilgrims are all prominently displayed; in the Cox Corridor of the Capitol where the words ‘America! God shed His grace on thee’ are inscribed; at the east Senate entrance with the words `Annuit Coeptis’ which is Latin for `God has favored our undertakings’; and in numerous other locations;

Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are found in many Federal buildings across Washington, DC, including in bronze in the floor of the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U.S. Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating;

Whereas in the Washington Monument not only are numerous Bible verses and religious acknowledgements carved on memorial blocks in the walls, including the phrases: `Holiness to the Lord’ (Exodus 28:26, 30:30, Isaiah 23:18, Zechariah 14:20), `Search the Scriptures’ (John 5:39), `The memory of the just is blessed’ (Proverbs 10:7), `May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence’, and `In God We Trust’, but the Latin inscription Laus Deo meaning `Praise be to God’ is engraved on the monument’s capstone;

Whereas of the 5 areas inside the Jefferson Memorial into which Jefferson’s words have been carved, 4 are God-centered, including Jefferson’s declaration that ‘God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever’;

Whereas the Lincoln Memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that `we here highly resolve that … this nation under God … shall not perish from the earth’; `The Almighty has His own purposes. `Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh’ (Matthew 18:7); `as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said `the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’ (Psalms 19:9); `one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh see it together’ (Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, based on Isaiah 40:4-5);

Whereas in the Library of Congress, The Giant Bible of Mainz, and The Gutenberg Bible are on prominent permanent display and etched on the walls are Bible verses, including: `The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not’ (John 1:5); `Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding’ (Proverbs 4:7); `What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God’ (Micah 6:8); and `The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1);

Whereas numerous other of the most important American government leaders, institutions, monuments, buildings, and landmarks both openly acknowledge and incorporate religious words, symbols, and imagery into official venues;

Whereas such acknowledgments are even more frequent at the State and local level than at the Federal level, where thousands of such acknowledgments exist; and

Whereas the first week in May each year would be an appropriate week to designate as `American Religious History Week’: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives—-

(1) affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history, including up to the current day;

(2) recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation’s most valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America’s representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures;

(3) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources; and

(4) expresses support for designation of a `American Religious History Week’ every year for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

Source:  Govtrack.us at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=hr110-888

RELIGION AND EDUCATION

April 26th, 2010

“[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”

Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children” Isaiah 54:13

WAS GEORGE WASHINGTON A CHRISTIAN?

April 25th, 2010

George Washington is one of the most influential founding fathers of our country. Some say he was a Christian, others a Deist, devout Episcopalian, Free Mason, etc. Anna C. Reed, a niece of one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, wrote “Life of Washington” for the American Sunday School Union in 1842. The book was written within 50 years of Washington’s death, giving us one of the earliest biographies. After reading the following, you will have an answer to Washington’s faith. The following is an excerpt from “Life of Washington” [see endnotes].

On another occasion he [Washington] said, “My first wish is to see the whole world in peace, and the inhabitants of it as a band of brothers, striving who should contribute most to the happiness of mankind.” He knew that this could be effected only the universal influence of the precepts of Jesus, the Divine ‘Prince of Peace;’ and in answering the address of the clergy and laity of the Episcopal church, presented when he was first elected president, he said, “On this occasion it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt in perceiving the fraternal affection which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects indeed, to see Christians of every denomination dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christian spirit than ever they have done in any former age, or in any other nation.”

The various addresses he received then, and his answers, fill three manuscript volumes. The close of his answer to the ministers of one religious denomination, will show the feelings which influenced him in replying to all; he said, “I assure you I take in the kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the throne of grace for me; and that I likewise will implore the divine benediction on yourselves and your religious community.” This declaration of Washington was not an unmeaning profession, and no doubt he literally fulfilled this promise to pray for those whose prayers for him were proffered. he was in the habit of communing with God, or he would not have made such an engagement. His practice was always in conformity with the opinions and feelings he expressed, and he had evinced his sentiments on Christian unity of a spirit when the American army lay encamped at Morristown. He called on the Rev. Dr. Jones, the pastor of the Presbyterian church of that village, and said, “Dr., I understand that the Lord’s supper is to be celebrated with you next Sunday; I would learn if it accords with the canon of your church to admit communicants of another denomination?” The doctor replied, “Most certainly; ours is not the Presbyterian table, general, but the Lord’s table; and we hence give the Lord’s invitation to all his followers, of whatever name.” The general replied, “I am glad of it, that is as it ought to be; but as I was not quite sure of the fact, I thought I would ascertain it from yourself as I propose to join with you on that occasion though a member of the Church of England, I have no exclusive partialities.” Dr. Jones assured him of a cordial welcome, and he took his seat with the communicants on the next Sabbath. Early in life, he was actively interested in church affairs; was a vestryman of Truro parish, in which was Pohick church, seven miles from Mount Vernon. He was also a vestryman in Fairfax a parish, the place of worship of which was in Alexandria, ten miles from his home. He had a pew in each church. On a day appointed for fasting, humiliation and prayer, he wrote in his diary, “Went to church and fasted all day.” Conforming not only to the spirit, but strictly to the letter of the appointment. His private devotional habits were in accordance with his invariable public ones. He usually rose at four o’clock and went into his library. His nephew, Mr. Robert Lewis, who was his private secretary when he was president, said that he had accidentally witnessed his private devotions both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture, with a Bible open before him; and that he believed such to have been his daily practice. He adopted a grand-daughter of Mrs. Washington, and she resided in his family twenty years. In a letter, dated 1833, that lady wrote of Washington thus:

“It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o’clock, where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. he always rose before the sun, and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray ‘that they may be seen of men;’ he communed with his God in secret. When my aunt, Miss Custis, died suddenly at Mount Vernon, before they could realize the event, he knelt by her and prayed most fervently, most affectionately, for her recovery. He was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little, generally never of himself. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during the war.” After some other remarks, she mentions her grandmother thus: “He knew that I had the most perfect model of female excellence ever with me, as my monitress, who acted the part of a tender and devoted parent, loving me only as a mother can love, and never extenuating, or approving in me what she disapproved in others. She never omitted her private devotions or her public duties; and she and her husband were so perfectly united and happy that he must have been a Christian.? She had no doubts, no fears for him. After forty years of devoted affection and uninterrupted happiness, she resigned him without a murmur into the arms of his Savior and his God, with the assured hope of his eternal felicity. It is necessary that any one should certify General Washington avowed himself to me a believer in Christianity? as well may we question his patriotism, his heroic disinterested devotion to his country. His mottoes were, “DEEDS, NOT WORDS; and , FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY.’ ” [1]

But, remember, Washington directed his countrymen to a higher example than his; he said that he earnestly prayed they might follow that of “THE DIVINE AUTHOR OF OUR BLESSED RELIGION;” and the Bible, the sacred book which makes known that example, you should value as the crown of all your blessings; for in it, you may learn how to secure their continuance through this short life, and how to obtain that blissful gift of God, “Eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

ENDNOTES:

Anna C. Reed, Life of Washington, Pages 270-275, 277; Copyright 2009, Attic Books, New Leaf Publishing Group, P O Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638 (Second Printing 2010); Published by permission. Orginally published in 1842, American Sunday-School Union, now known as American Missionary Society, http://www.americanmissionary.org; Life of Washington retains the original 1842 printing in a beautiful, highly readable bound book. If you love early American History and our country’s Christian foundation, this is a ‘must’ book. You may order the book at $16.99 at http://goo.gl/firB

[1] Letter written by George Washington’s adopted daughter (also his step-granddaughter) Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis Lewis. It was written in 1833 in response to author Jared Sparks [who compiled a set of Washington’s Writings] request for info on Washington’s religious beliefs for a book he was writing that was published under the title “The Life of Washington”.

THOMAS JEFFERSON’S BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS

April 7th, 2010

Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint
— Thomas Jefferson, in “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom,” Section I

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . .
–Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time
–Thomas Jefferson, in A Summary View of the Rights of British America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
–Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence

Jefferson’s convictions (and those of other Founding Fathers), some have noted, were based in a theory called Natural Law, which essentially stated that there are certain laws are set by Nature and not given by man. But that theory can be traced to John Locke and John Hobbes among others. They in turn were influenced by and built on the works of  St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and other early church fathers—and we know where they got their ideas from—God’s Word. So there is obvious indirect influence of the Bible on Jefferson. But there is also more direct evidence of Jefferson’s Biblical foundations.

If you have studied the Bible, then Jefferson’s quotes above may sound familiar. That could be perhaps because Jefferson’s thoughts in those quotes—being a well-read man who read the Word—likely came from God’s Word, including these verses below. Note the parallels and similarity to Jefferson’s thinking in his quotes:

• Psalms 11:3I (KJV) “if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (see entire context from the Message Bible below in the End Notes)
o Jefferson’s phrase: Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis…
• Romans 8:19-21 (NIV) The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
o Jefferson’s phrase: The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time
• Hebrews 10:26-28 (NIV) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Revelation 14:6-8 (NIV) He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
o Jefferson’s phrase: I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . .

It is apparent from just these quotes alone that Jefferson, whom some incorrectly suggest set up a “wall of separation of church and state”, obviously didn’t believe there was a wall between church and state when it came to liberties endowed by God. Instead God’s Word, which breaks down every wall, shaped Thomas Jefferson’s heart.

_________________________________
End Notes:

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
the official website of Jefferson’s home, museum, library and archives
http://www.monticello.org/reports/quotes/memorial.html

Natural Law
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law

Bible Gateway
http://www.biblegateway.com

Psalms 11:1-5, The Message Bible
“I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now when you say, “Run to the mountains; the evil bows are bent, the wicked arrows Aimed to shoot under cover of darkness at every heart open to God. The bottom’s dropped out of the country; good people don’t have a chance”?  But God hasn’t moved to the mountains; his holy address hasn’t changed. He’s in charge, as always, his eyes taking everything in, his eyelids Unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood inside and out, not missing a thing. He tests the good and the bad alike; if anyone cheats, God’s outraged. Fail the test and you’re out, out in a hail of firestones, Drinking from a canteen filled with hot desert wind.  God’s business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye.”

EARLY AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

March 29th, 2010

Classical Christian Education: A Look at Some History

by Ben House

[Editor’s note: This excellent article gives us a glimpse of early American Christian education]

The modern public education system has been weighed in many scales and found wanting. Critiques of the system in the form of books, articles, news stories, speeches, sermons, government reports, and test results have catalogued the numerous failings of state schools. Within public education, teachers, administrators, and students offer even more criticisms of the system. Whether one considers the arguments of the right or conservative end of the political spectrum, where the call is for a return to “the basics” and prayer, to the left or liberal wing of the political spectrum, where the call is for more government money, Outcome Based Education, and pluralism, the call is clearly for change.

State schools are expected to do everything: prepare students for college or vocational technical jobs, enable both brighter and slower students to excel at their respective levels, inculcate the “right” values, teach proper sexual behavior, teach students to think critically, raise the self-esteem of students, discipline children, prevent them from turning to drugs, alcohol, or suicide, teach a wide-ranging curriculum, create racial, sexual, and gender understanding and harmony, win ball games, and do all of these things in a manner that is pleasing to the students so they will not be bored or discouraged. In spite of these messianic expectations, [1] public schools are not sure what they are supposed to be doing. In the midst of a host of bugle commands, they are not sure which way to charge. There is no clear philosophy or direction.

In an age of cultural rootlessness, moral relativism, religious pluralism, social disintegration, and future uncertainty, how can we expect anything other than educational chaos? [2] Unstable times call for a return to theological foundations and historical forms. Many Christians mistakenly think that the cultural and social mores of the 1950s provide the answers. But the families, churches, and schools of the 1950s produced the 1960s. The rediscovery of theological foundations and historical forms must go further back in history.

The theological foundations must be established upon the Scriptures. In education, Christians have too often seen the Bible either as a book to be studied in a separate subject, i.e. Bible class, or as a devotional book. Christian education must teach not only Bible details, but biblical systematic theology. From that theology, Christians must develop a worldview that applies biblical concepts to every area of life. Thankfully, this has been done numerous times in the history of Christianity. The historic forms or examples can be found where Christians produced educated, biblically literate, discerning students. The historic form can be called Classical Christian Education.

Historian Christopher Dawson has described the beginnings of Classical Christian Education:

From the time of Plato the Hellenic paideia [system of instruction] was a humanism in search of a theology, and the religious traditions of Greek culture were neither deep nor wide enough to prepare the answer…..The new Christian culture was therefore built from the beginning on a double foundation. The old classical education in the liberal arts was maintained without any interruption, and since this education was inseparable from the study of classical authors, the old classical education continued to be studied. But alongside of–and above–all this, there was now a specifically Christian learning which was Biblical and theological and which produced its own prolific literature. [3]

Typically the schools in early American history were Classical Christian schools. The instructors were usually ministers whose training was a combination of classical languages and literature and Protestant theology. In other words, they studied the Bible in its original Hebrew and Greek, and they read Homer’s Iliad in Greek, Tacitus’ histories in Latin, as well as studying John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. For example, Moses Waddell, a Southern Presbyterian preacher and teacher (1770-1840), began studying Latin at age eight, and after six years of school, he had finished courses in Greek, Latin, and mathematics. After his conversion and entrance into the ministry, Waddell established, in a log building, a school with an enrollment of as many as 180 students a year. In his book Southern Presbyterian Leaders, Dr. Henry Alexander White made these comments about Waddell’s school:

The food furnished to the students in Waddell’s log college was plain, for it was usually nothing more than cornbread and bacon. A blast from a ram’s horn called them all together from morning and evening prayers. When the weather was mild the students sat or lay beneath the trees to prepare their lessons. The sound of the horn told the class in Homer when to assemble, and all of the members rushed at once to the recitation hall in the main building. Then the horn called up, in regular order, the Cicero, the Horace, and the Virgil classes, as well as those engaged in the study of mathematics and English. [4]

The success of this school obviously did not come from expensive facilities and modern technology or even a good cafeteria. (This shows the fallacy of those who promote higher school taxes to improve education.) Jack Maddex, Jr. said, “Waddell’s students mastered the classical curriculum at an exacting pace, interspersing long study periods with recitations.” [5 ] Many of Waddell’s students achieved prominence in academic and civil affairs.

The type of student Classical Christian education produced is astounding to modern readers. The difficulty and rigor of education made it a prized commodity. The compulsory and egalitarian education system of today has debased the value of the commodity. While academic degrees are expected in many fields today, they are rarely seen as indicators of academic or intellectual ability. By contrast, education in the past was equated with book knowledge, and that knowledge was acquired only by hard work. Young Moses Hoge was noted for fastening a book to his plow as he worked the fields. He would plow a furrow, stop and read a page, and then ponder the contents as he plowed the next furrow. [6] David Caldwell, as a student, would sit near an open window and study into the late hours of the night. Then he would fold his arms on the table, lay his head down, and sleep until morning. [7] James Henley Thornwell, who was given to studying fourteen hours a day, commented on his own need to improve his speaking and writing skills:

Language was my great difficulty in early life. I had no natural command of words. I undertook to remedy the defect by committing to memory large portions of the New Testament, the Psalms, and much of the Prophets, also whole dramas of Shakespeare, and a great part of Milton’s Paradise Lost; so that you might start me at any line in any drama or book, and I would go through to the end. [8]

As a young teacher, Thornwell continued his study habits:

I have commenced regularly with Xenophon’s works, and intend to read them carefully. I shall then take up Thucydides, Herodotus, and Demosthenes. After mastering these I shall pass on to the philosophers and poets. In Latin I am going regularly through Cicero’s writings. I read them by double translations; that is, I first translate them into English and then retranslate them into Latin. In German I am perusing Goethe’s works. My life, you can plainly see, is not a life of idleness. [9]

After Thornwell committed his life to Christ, he entered the ministry and became one of the greatest Presbyterian ministers and theologians ever produced in America.

Professor Clyde Wilson has described the curriculum and its purposes in the University of North Carolina in the middle of the 1800s. He said:

The college curriculum consisted chiefly of Latin, Greek, and pure mathematics, with smaller amounts of modern languages, chemistry, geology, physics, botany, zoology, metaphysics, logic, rhetoric, political economy, and constitutional and international law. More than half of a student’s time in four years was spent in languages ancient and modern; three-fifths in the languages and pure mathematics together. The intent of these studies was to develop the powers of reason, analysis, and perspective, and by familiarity with the classical republics to inspire an understanding and love of American institutions. The curriculum also reflected a highly verbal and personalized society in which fixed status and institutional rigidity had not robbed words of their power to persuade and move. [10]

This ability to use reason, analysis, and perspective comes from reading. Neil Postman said, “From Erasmus in the sixteenth century to Elizabeth Eisenstein in the twentieth, almost every scholar who has grappled with the question of what reading does to one’s habits of mind has concluded that the process encourages rationality; the sequential, propositional character of the written word fosters what Walter Ong calls the ‘analytical management of knowledge.'”11 In Classical Christian education, this intellectual ability is cultivated in order to understand and implement the Scriptures. Susan Alder has stated that education in Colonial America was Christian not only in teaching the doctrines of the Christian faith, but in defining all reality by precepts and principles laid out in the Bible. As historian Clinton Rossiter has said, “The colonial mind was thoroughly Christian in its approach to education, philosophy, and social theory….” [12]

The importance of the Bible in education can be seen in an ironically prophetic defense of the use of the Bible in public schools given by Benjamin Rush in 1786. Rush said:

I do not mean to exclude books of history, poetry, or even fables from our schools. They may and should be read frequently by our young people, but if the Bible is made to give way to them altogether, I foresee that it will be read in a short time only in churches and in a few years will probably be found only in the offices of magistrates and in courts of justice. [13]

Many other examples could be given of the nature of Classical Christian education as it existed in America from our colonial beginnings to about the 1900s. Very obviously, the academic standards were high, the worldview was Christian, and the results were amazing. But what is the message for us? Some would object to this discussion and point out that not all Americans received the level of education described above and that not all American students were James Henley Thornwells in inclination and ability. This is true; likewise, not all basketball players today are Michael Jordans, but that should not cause us to lower the basketball goals to five feet high. The example of educated men of the 1700s and 1800s is daunting. How can we teach in such a way to achieve this when the teachers today do not have the Classical Christian training of the past? The answer is that we cannot achieve the same results….in one generation. We must be future oriented, and we must begin with what we have.

We have the Bible, so we can teach theology. We have books–centuries’ accumulation of books at affordable prices. While we may begin with language restrictions, since few are trained in Latin and Greek today, we can master the great works of literature, history, and theology either written or translated into English.

Another objection might be: Why this type of education? Why not something more relevant, more modern, more accommodating to a non-literate, non-theological age? Classical Christian education is not designed to fit the student for our times. It is designed to transform the student to God’s times (Romans 12:2). It is designed to produce an student with the mental discipline and ability to read an in-depth book (even one with more than one hundred pages), write discerning, thoughtful essays on the book, present lectures or debates on the contents of the book, and evaluate its contents in light of the Christian worldview. “Paces,” multiple choice questions, computer games, and entertaining films cannot accomplish these results. Classical Christian education is “word-oriented.” It can and has produced workmen who can rightly divide the Word of God and who do not need to be ashamed to confront and unmask the idols of our age.

Source: Classical Christian Education: A Look at Some History by Ben House; Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics at http://goo.gl/Yc6i

FOOTNOTES

*Ben House is a pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Texarkana, AR and the administrator of Veritas School.

1 Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, (Philipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1963)

2 See Gene Edward Veith, Jr., Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994).

3 Christopher Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education, (Steubenville, Ohio: Franciscan University Press, 1989) pp. 8-9.

4 Henry Alexander White, Southern Presbyterian Leaders, (New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1911) pp. 59-60. [Soon to be reprinted.]

5 Jack P. Maddex, Jr., “Waddell, Moses,” Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, edited by Samuel S. Hill (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1984) p. 819.

6 White, Ibid. p. 193.

7 Ibid. p. 96.

8 Ibid. pp. 309-310.

9 Ibid.

10 Clyd N. Wilson, Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Times of James Johnson Pettigrew, (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1990), p. 15.

11 Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), p. 15.

12 Susan Alder, “Education in America,” in Public Education and Indoctrination (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1993). Alder quoted Rossiter from Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic: The Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1953), p. 119.

13 Benjamin Rush. “Thoughts Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic” from American Political Writing during the Founding Era, 1760-1805, Volume 1, p. 684, edited by Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1983) Certainly, Rush would be shocked at the exclusion of the Scriptures from modern courts of justice!

THE FIRST EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE

March 25th, 2010

Thomas Prince Sr. may have worried that the Great Awakening was fading when he and his son started the first evangelical magazine in 1743. But he wanted to publish a journal that would document the revival that had been spreading through the American colonies. Future generations could turn to the Christian History magazine and remember God’s faithfulness. He also hoped the periodical would keep the awakened community from fracturing, encourage recent converts, and perhaps even prompt a few new ones. Whether or not the Boston pastor succeeded in all his aims, we are indebted this progenitor of evangelical publishing, who inspired generations of journalist/historians to support the church by documenting the gospel’s progress.

“Where there had been no specifically evangelical periodical publication in the first forty years of the [eighteenth] century,” Susan [Durden] O’Brien observes, “by the last forty years such literature had become a normal means of communication and propagation for several denominations.”

Writing in the first issue, published on March 5, 1743, editor Thomas Prince Jr. told readers what they could expect. New England ministers would submit authentic, trustworthy accounts of the contemporary revival. He planned to publish extracts from the “most remarkable” revival stories in history. He solicited revival narratives from ministers in England and Scotland. And he excerpted letters between pastors from various locales, anywhere from Scotland to Georgia. This correspondence provided readers with the most reliable, recent news from the awakening’s front lines.

The first seven issues of the weekly magazine shared news from the contemporary Kilsyth revival in Scotland. “As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country: So Solomon observed in his day; and so we find it in ours,” Prince wrote in his editor’s preface. Indeed, revival leaders thrived on exchanging mutually encouraging reports across the Atlantic. They also exchanged strategies for defending the awakening. Like his allies in America, Scottish minister James Robe attacked the revival’s critics head-on. It’s not clear how many critics read this pro-revival magazine, but Robe gave them something to chew on. Critics regarded the crowds as deluded by the Devil, so Robe asked how ministers should respond. The crowds were approaching ministers confessing their immoral behavior and asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Should they turn the crowds away, telling them the Devil makes them see their sin as offensive to God? Or should they explain that Satan leads them to inquire about the state of their souls and seek relief from Christ? Of course, such a response would be cruel and ridiculous, Robe implied.

Prince ceased publication in 1745. But the legacy of the Christian History endures in name and also in the spirit of bringing evangelicals together to testify about what the Lord has done.

“Journals like Prince’s brought international evangelicalism to an important new stage,” Mark Noll writes in The Rise of Evangelicalism. “Revivalistic Calvinism was becoming a public matter, and in so doing was beginning to blur its boundaries with others in the English-speaking world who were uncertain about Calvinism abut nonetheless dedicated to revival. Evangelical self-consciousness increased measurably as articles from magazines were circulated, read publicly and reprinted in other papers.”

Source: The First Evangelical Magazine by Collin Hansen, Chritian History blog, February 9, 2010 at http://goo.gl/oFdS

RELIGION AND THE FOUNDING OF AMERICA

February 25th, 2010

PART 2

Against a prevailing view that eighteenth-century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers’ passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now identify a high level of religious energy in colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion was in the “ascension rather than the declension”; another sees a “rising vitality in religious life” from 1700 onward; a third finds religion in many parts of the colonies in a state of “feverish growth.” Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. Between 1700 and 1740, an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace.

Toward mid-century the country experienced its first major religious revival. The Great Awakening swept the English-speaking world, as religious energy vibrated between England, Wales, Scotland and the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. In America, the Awakening signaled the advent of an encompassing evangelicalism–the belief that the essence of religious experience was the “new birth,” inspired by the preaching of the Word. It invigorated even as it divided churches. The supporters of the Awakening and its evangelical thrust–Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists–became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the nineteenth century. Opponents of the Awakening or those split by it–Anglicans, Quakers, and Congregationalists–were left behind.

Another religious movement that was the antithesis of evangelicalism made its appearance in the eighteenth century. Deism, which emphasized morality and rejected the orthodox Christian view of the divinity of Christ, found advocates among upper-class Americans. Deists, never more than “a minority within a minority,” were submerged by evangelicalism in the nineteenth century.

THE APPEARANCE OF EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY CHURCHES

Churches in eighteenth-century America came in all sizes and shapes, from the plain, modest buildings in newly settled rural areas to elegant edifices in the prosperous cities on the eastern seaboard. Churches reflected the customs and traditions as well as the wealth and social status of the denominations that built them. Hence, a new Anglican Church in rural Goose Creek, South Carolina, was fitted out with an impressive wood-carved pulpit, while a fledgling Baptist Church in rural Virginia had only the bare essentials. German churches contained features unknown in English ones.

THE EMERGENCE OF AMERICAN EVANGELICALISM:
THE GREAT AWAKENING

Evangelicalism is difficult to date and to define. In 1531, at the beginning of the Reformation, Sir Thomas More referred to religious adversaries as “Evaungelicalles.” Scholars have argued that, as a self-conscious movement, evangelicalism did not arise until the mid-seventeenth century, perhaps not until the Great Awakening itself. The fundamental premise of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to a “new birth” through preaching of the Word.

The first generation of New England Puritans required that church members undergo a conversion experience that they could describe publicly. Their successors were not as successful in reaping harvests of redeemed souls. During the first decades of the eighteenth century in the Connecticut River Valley a series of local “awakenings” began. By the 1730s they had spread into what was interpreted as a general outpouring of the Spirit that bathed the American colonies, England, Wales, and Scotland. In mass open-air revivals powerful preachers like George Whitefield brought thousands of souls to the new birth. The Great Awakening, which had spent its force in New England by the mid-1740s, split the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches into supporters–called “New Lights” and “New Side”–and opponents–the “Old Lights” and “Old Side.” Many New England New Lights became Separate Baptists. Together with New Side Presbyterians (eventually reunited on their own terms with the Old Side) they carried the Great Awakening into the southern colonies, igniting a series of the revivals that lasted well into the nineteenth century.

More tomorrow in Part 3.

[1] Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, Library of Congress; Exhibition, America As Refuge, Section 1, Part 2 [edited]