Welcome to the American Christian Heritage Group blog where we give you glimpses of our country's early Christian foundations. We hope you enjoy these, learn more about our Christian heritage and undertake reading of the many cited sources and end notes. Please feel free to register and leave comments.

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.

“QUOTES”

October 11th, 2011

“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.”

Source: Farewell Address, George Washington, 1796 (The Avalon Project,© 2008 Lillian Goldman Law Library, 127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511)

The Importance of Christianity

July 8th, 2010

The following is an article by Dr. Peter Lillback entitled “This Fourth of July, Remember the Importance of Christianity” posted at Townhall.com on July 4, 2010

Myths have always surrounded George Washington. As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, it’s time to dispel the most dangerous – that he was not a Christian.

Since the 200th anniversary of his birth in 1932, the consensus of historians has been that Washington was a Deist – someone who believes in a remote and impersonal God who plays no role in human affairs.

In recent years, several books have been published, often referring to Washington as more “a man of honor than … a man of religion” or not a Christian “if one defines ‘Christian’ as the evangelicals do.”

Many of the leaders of the Revolutionary War were Deists, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, author of “The Age of Reason.” But calling Washington one of them – that’s just sloppy scholarship. I challenge these historians to produce one verifiable statement from Washington’s writings that shows he was a Deist.

Scholars today, by and large, consider all the research to have been done on Washington’s faith. They think that there is nothing new to discover, and that the conclusion already reached, that Washington was not a Christian, is unimpeachable. The fact is that these secular scholars simply read their own unbelief into Washington to draw the desired conclusion.

Discovering the truth was made more difficult by Washington’s introspective nature. He didn’t like talking about himself. His personal faith was more often expressed in actions, according to his motto, “deeds, not words.”

But a careful examination of his thoughts, words and deeds shows that he was a devout 18th-century Anglican – what today would be called an Episcopalian.

Washington never claimed to be a Deist and never used the word Deist or Deism, and yet he does refer to himself as a Christian, using such phrases as “on my honor and the faith of a Christian.”
Washington believed in a God who was active in history, calling his faith the “blessed religion revealed in the Word of God,” speaking of Christ as the “Divine Author of our blessed religion,” and continually referring to the role of Divine Providence in the affairs of men.

Washington read sermons to his family. His writing was thick with Biblical allusions. He composed more than 100 prayers in his own hand – Deists don’t believe that God answers prayers.
In Washington’s writings, he used the word “God” at least 146 times, “divine” at least 95 times, “heaven” at least 133 times and “providence” at least 270 times.

His first act as president was a prayer. When he finished his oath of office at his first inaugural, he added the words, “So help me God,” and bent down to kiss the Bible. Then he led the crowd across the street to a chapel for a two-hour service. Alexander Hamilton’s wife said she was at Washington’s side when he took communion that day.

In his General Orders to the troops at Valley Forge, Washington wrote, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian.”

On Sept. 28, 1789, he wrote to the Rev. Samuel Langdon: “The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf. And it is my earnest prayer that we may so conduct ourselves as to merit a continuance of those blessings with which we have hitherto been favored.”

Where a nation starts determines where it ends. If our Founding Father was a Deist, we should certainly be secularists today.

But if our Founding Father was committed to a Christian worldview, Christianity today is not an interloper in the public square but rather has a legitimate role in addressing the secular assault against the historic values and beliefs of America.

End Notes:

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”.

George Washington racks up $300,000 late fee

April 18th, 2010

He may have never told a lie, but George Washington apparently had no problem stiffing a Manhattan library on two books.

Borrowed book and notation

Two centuries ago, the nation’s first President borrowed two tomes from the New York Society Library on E. 79th St. and never returned them, racking up an inflation-adjusted $300,000 late fee.

But Washington can rest easy.

“We’re not actively pursuing the overdue fines,” quipped head librarian Mark Bartlett. “But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back.”

Washington’s dastardly deed went unknown for almost 150 years.

Then in 1934, a dusty, beaten-up ledger was discovered in a trash heap in the library’s basement.

On its tan pages were the names of all of the people who had borrowed books from the city’s oldest library between July 1789 and April 1792.

At the time, the city was the nation’s capital and the library – then located at Wall and Broad Sts. – was the only one in town.

Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay all borrowed books, the ledger shows.

They returned them, too.

The library’s boldest bold-faced name wasn’t as cooperative.

On Oct. 5, 1789, Washington borrowed the “Law of Nations,” a treatise on international relations, and Vol. 12 of the “Commons Debates,” which contained transcripts of debates from Britain’s House of Commons.

Beside the names of the books, the librarian wrote on the ledger only, “President.”

The entry, written with a quill pen, contains no return date.

The books were due by Nov. 2, 1789, and have been accruing a fine of a few pennies per day ever since.

This week, Bartlett and his staff became even more convinced the books were filched when librarian Matthew Haugen stumbled upon the long lost 14-volume collection of the “Commons Debates.”

Sure enough, Vol. 12 was missing.

“It’s hard to know what could have happened,” Bartlett said. “There are as many questions for us as there are answers.”

Sources: NY Daily News.com, President George Washington racks up $300,000 late fee for two Manhatten library books, Rich Schapiro, April 17, 2010, 4:00 a.m. and New York Society Library website, http://www.nysoclib.org/ and The Associated Press

DRIVEN TO HIS KNEES

April 12th, 2010

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was “A man of profound and intense religious feeling,” his White House secretaries Hay and Nicolay wrote in their monumental Lincoln biography. In fact, Abraham Lincoln is considered the last of the Founding Fathers and one of the greatest public religious figures in American history. The Bible “is the best gift God has given to man,” he once said; “But for it we could not know right from wrong.” Lincoln was devout–intensely devout–with a difference. [1]

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for that day.” [2]

[1] A Religious Idea Called “America,” by David Gelernter, Yale University; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research Bradley Lecture, March 2006
[2] Lincoln Observed: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks edited by Michael Burlingame (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 210.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

April 9th, 2010

“[A] wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” [1]

[1] Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, 1801

LATER DECLARATIONS OF USA AS A CHRISTIAN NATION

March 23rd, 2010

We’ve read about John Quincy Adams and his oration to Newburyport on July 4th, 1837. He declared that our country was founded by Divine predestination and we were a nation of Cristians. And, he boldly declared that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon the earth. These are clear and powerful statements by the sixth President of the United States.

That understanding has continued throughout the years and been reaffirmed by previous Presidents. President Woodrow Wilson delivered an address on “The Bible and Progress” in Denver, Colorado on May 7, 1911. He stated,

“America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.” [1]

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a mid-Atlantic summit with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, described the United States as “the lasting concord between men and nations, founded on the principles of Christianity.” He then asked the crew on their warship to join him in a rousing chorus of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

President Harry Truman in writing Pope Pius XII in 1947 stated, “This is a Christian nation.” [2]

Jimmy Carter, as a Presidential candidate told reporters in 1976 that “We have a responsibility to try to shape government so that it does exemplify the will of God.” [3]

[1] The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link, 57 volumes, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1966), 23:12-20. Quoted in Richard V. Pierard and Robert D. Linder, Civil Religion and the Presidency, Zondervan 1988, 153
[2] Larry Witham, “‘Christian Nation’ Now Fighting Words,” The Washington Times, November 23, 1992, A1
[3] Richard G. Hutcheson, Jr., God in the White House: How Religion Has Changed the Modern Presidency (New York: Macmillan, 1998) 1

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS JULY 4TH ORATION

March 23rd, 2010

Introduction

”]John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was the sixth President of the United States from March 4, 1825, to March 4, 1829. He was also an American diplomat and served in both the Senate and House of Representatives. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of President John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams. The name “Quincy” came from Abigail’s maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts is also named.

Adams is best known as a diplomat who shaped American’s foreign policy in line with his deeply conservative and ardently nationalist commitment to America’s republican values. More recently he has been portrayed as the exemplar and moral leader in an era of modernization when new technologies and networks of infrastructure and communication brought to the people messages of religious revival, social reform, and party politics, as well as moving goods, money and people ever more rapidly and efficiently. [1]

A little known oration was delivered to the people of Newburyport, Massachusetts on July 4th that is amazing as to the clear statements of United States being a nation of Christians founded by Divine Providence. As Presidfent of the Unites he even declared that the United States was predestined according to God’s plan and quotes scriptures throughout his oration. Here in part is the opening of his oration and an isolated statement from another section of the oration. Check the references to read the entire oration.

The Oration

AN Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, At Their Request On The Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837.

” Say ye not, A Confedfcracy, to all them to whom this people shall say
A Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” Isaiah 8:12.

Why is it, Friends and Fellow Citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, that, entering upon the sixty-second year of our national existence, you have honored with an invitation to address you from this place, a fellow citizen of a former age, bearing in the records of his memory, the warm and vivid affections which attached him, at the distance of a full half century, to your town, and to your forefathers, then the cherished associates of his youthful days? Why is it that, next to the birth day of the Saviour of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? — And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birthday of Him, who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birthday of the nation?

Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Saviour? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social
compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human “government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfilment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before ?

And, in another section, President Adams stated:

The United States of America were no longer Colonies. They were an independent Nation of Christians, recognizing the general principles of the European law of nations. [1] [2]

[1] John Quincy Adams, http://goo.gl/TgkY
[2] Oration at Newburyport by Honorable John Quincy Adams, a Google digital book; http://goo.gl/igdW
[3] See also http://goo.gl/GlbQ for a full text of this oration and http://goo.gl/fBOD

FOUNDING FATHER’S BELIEVED FREEDOM IS FROM GOD

March 8th, 2010

FOUNDING FATHER’S BELIEVED FREEDOM IS FROM GOD

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence from

Thomas Jefferson

England, believed that:

  • All men are equal because God made them that way
  • He personally gave them certain rights of freedom that Americans enjoy today
  • These people God made, to whom He gifted these certain rights, are the ones who give their agreement for Government to govern righteously
  • Therefore, a just Government gets its power to govern righteously from the agreement of people whom God made and bestowed certain rights.

In other words, God gave us our freedom and by our consent we give righteous government its power to govern. President Jefferson believed this so strongly, that he made it the cornerstone of our country’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence. A large number of Founding Fathers signaled their agreement that our rights flow from God by signing the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson thought it apparent to all of them that God made people equal and gave them the right to life, liberty and to pursue success and fulfillment.

Here is what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration:

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Today, if you visit the Jefferson Memorial, you will see this inscribed on Panel One. These and other direct quotes from Jefferson are engraved on it, as a permanent record to all history that he believed men were free because of God.

_________
End Notes:
http://www.monticello.org/reports/quotes/memorial.html