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.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

October 29th, 2010

Benjamin Franklin

You will find a mixed bag of beliefs when it comes to Benjamin Franklin and his religion. He believed in God and His supremacy. Although he grew up under Calvinist teaching, he later came under the influence of British Deistic thought and he eventually became a prominent Deist, but rejected the more radical Deism. Yet, mixed in with his Deist belief was Calvinistic doctrine. One could say that Franklin became a new and prudent Deist.
Benjamin Franklin’s character demonstrates that from early youth he became independent in thought and actions. Enrolled in the Boston Latin School at the age of eight his father had to withdraw him after the first year. The Boston Latin School was well known for many of the famous Puritan divines, a future Franklin apparently did not want to follow. One author stated that while a youth he was reported not as pious or faithful, but as “skeptical, puckish . . . irreverent.”(1) He went to another school but soon educated himself from the age 10 and on.
Many would argue that because Franklin was a known Deist, our country could not have a Christian foundation. That argument ultimately denies the sovereignty of God to work through all of His creation. It also is an argument that clearly objects to and denies the true God of Christianity. They may say ‘not so;’ why then do they protest so much against Christianity? Benjamin Franklin held a firm belief and faith in God. He also believed in Divine intervention and God’s sovereignty. Although he did not conform to the traditional Christian faith, he embraced a firm and unmovable faith in God and His works in the founding of America. Read what he spoke when after four to five weeks the Constitutional Convention was stalled:

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.


I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.”(2)

Franklin’s belief in God was firm. He was fully convicted of His existence and sovereignty and he firmly believed that without the blessings and guidance of God they would not succeed. One can imagine that Franklin, who broke with traditional Christianity, is the one to stand before the Convention delegates and rebuke them for not seeking God’s guidance. The irony of it is humorous. God’s providence truly does work through all of humanity. That day the Constitutional Convention moved on and brought forth the foundation of America.
Franklin wrote a paper in 1732 entitled On the Providence of God in the Government of the World. He proceeds to “. . . go about to prove this first Principle, the Existence of a Deity and that he is the Creator of the Universe. . .”. He continues to make two more points of God giving life, sustenance, and His sovereignty over all of creation. After completing these arguments, Franklin then establishes his theme on the providence of God in the government of the world. He directly states that God “sometimes interferes by His particular providence and sets aside the effects which would otherwise have been produced by . . . causes.”(3)  He did not quote scripture, but many of his statements were built on specific scriptures he learned in his youth.
When Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790, there was a picture of the Day of Judgment by his bedside. There is no question that Benjamin Franklin not only played a critical role in the founding of our country, he boldly declared that the United States of America was formed through the sovereignty of God.
1 Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), page 10
2 The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, Reported by James Madison, a delegate from the state of Virginia. Ed. by Gaillard Hund and James Brown Scott, Oxford University Press, 1920.
3 Benjamin Franklin, “On the Providence of God in the Government of the World”, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, eds. Leonard W. Labaree, et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959-), 1:264; or online at http://www.franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp Volume 1: 1706-34
Bibliography: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, David L. Holmes, © David L. Holmes 2006; Published by Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, NY; The Religious Views of Benjamin Franklin, Chapter 5, Pages 53-57.

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

RHODE ISLAND ESTABLISHES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

May 4th, 2010

The flag of Rhode Island is white and consists of a gold anchor in the center (a symbol for hope) surrounded by thirteen gold stars (for the original 13 colonies and Rhode Island's status as the 13th state to ratify the Constitution).

On May 4th, 1776, two months before the Declaration of Independence was adopted, the state declared its independence from England. It is one of the original thirteen colonies and its official name (still to this day) is State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It is the longest official state name and geographically smallest state in our country.

The first European settler in what is now Rhode Island was an Anglican minister, William Blackstone, who settled near what is now called Blackstone River, close to modern Lonsdale, in 1635. In June 1636, the father of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, brought some of his followers from Massachusetts to escape religious oppression. The people of Massachusetts were Congregationalists—Puritans who had fled England due to persecution by the Church of England. Roger Williams wanted to establish a colony where people could worship freely. He believed that that one should not infringe on another’s right to worship, and should have the ability to practice any religion of choice. [1]

The name Rhode Island and Providence Plantations derives from the merger of two colonies, Providence Plantations and Rhode Island. Providence Plantations was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the City of Providence. Rhode Island, the other colonial settlement, was founded in the area of present-day Newport, on Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay. [2]

The Consitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was birthed out of freedom of religion and acknowledgement of God and His sovereignity over the people of the state. Here are some excerpts of the Constitution:

Constitution
of the
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

PREAMBLE

We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government.

ARTICLE I

DECLARATION OF CERTAIN CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND PRINCIPLES

In order effectually to secure the religious and political freedom established by our venerated ancestors, and to preserve the same for our posterity, we do declare that the essential and unquestionable rights and principles hereinafter mentioned shall be established, maintained, and preserved, and shall be of paramount obligation in all legislative, judicial and executive proceedings.

Section 1. Right to make and alter Constitution — Constitution obligatory upon all. — In the words of the Father of his Country, we declare that “the basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government; but that the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”

Section 2. Laws for good of whole — Burdens to be equally distributed — Due process — Equal protection — Discrimination — No right to abortion granted. — All free governments are instituted for the protection, safety, and happiness of the people. All laws, therefore, should be made for the good of the whole; and the burdens of the state ought to be fairly distributed among its citizens. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. No otherwise qualified person shall, solely by reason of race, gender or handicap be subject to discrimination by the state, its agents or any person or entity doing business with the state. Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.

Section 3. Freedom of religion. — Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments; we, therefore, declare that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment of such person’s voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of such person’s religious belief; and that every person shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of such person’s conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain such person’s opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect the civil capacity of any person. [3]

Rhode Island’s present constitution was adopted in 1842 and has been often amended. Excerpts above are from the Constitution as it is today.

[1] U.S. History Encyclopedia
[2] From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[3] State of Rhode Island and General Assembly, http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/RiConstitution/C01.html

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”.

THE USE OF THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY

March 11th, 2010

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry famously said (as part of a longer speech), “Give me Liberty or give me death!” But he also later noted this same Liberty could bless or hurt a nation. Freedom without honor or righteousness was virtually worthless. He based this on what the Word of God says. The Word was such a part of him that when you read some speeches he gave, you see the Scriptures are skillfully interwoven into his words. It is almost as if they were his thoughts alone. But in reality it was the Word of God that had shaped his character and way of thinking on particular subjects.

You can see this in a note found with Patrick Henry’s will after his death:

Without virtue the blessings of liberty will be worth little. Whether this [American liberty] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed upon us. If they be wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone shall exalt them as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this, and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.

“Righteousness exalts a nation…” is a piece of wisdom right out of Proverbs14:34. The rest of that verse reads “but sin is a reproach to any people.” Patrick Henry, knowing the first part of the verse, likely knew the second part of the verse and inherently made the connection between unrighteousness and misery and death. It was obvious to him that the fruits of our nation’s freedom would be determined by our nation’s righteous—or unrighteous—actions.

Endnotes:
(The above note was apparently a part of Patrick Henry’s final thoughts about the Stamp Act. You can read his thoughts in their entirety below.)

What Patrick Henry Accomplished and What He Stood For Written in 1999 for the 200th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s death at Red Hill.  James Elson (James Elson is the Executive Vice President of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation at Red Hill, Virginia, Henry’s ancestral home. The Woman’s Auxiliary of the Foundation is the national sponsor of Oratory.)

http://www.redhill.org/research.htm

http://www.redhill.org/speeches/stampact.htm
Written on the back of Henry’s copy of the Stamp Act Resolutions was a message to posterity (as printed by William Wirt Henry from the manuscript then in his possession).

The within resolutions passed the House of Burgesses in May, 1765. They formed the first opposition to the Stamp Act and the scheme of taxing America by the British Parliament. All the colonies, either through fear, or want of opportunity to form an opposition, or from influence of some kind or other, had remained silent. I had been for the first time elected a Burgess a few days before, was young, inexperienced, unacquainted with the forms of the House, and the members that composed it. Finding the men of weight averse to opposition, and the commencement of the tax at hand, and that no person was likely to step forth, I determined to venture, and alone, unadvised, and unassisted, on a blank leaf of an old law-book, wrote the within. Upon offering them to the House violent debates ensued. Many threats were uttered, and much abuse cast on me by the party for submission. After a long and warm contest the resolutions passed by a very small majority, perhaps of one or two only. The alarm spread throughout America with astonishing quickness, and the Ministerial party were overwhelmed. The great point of resistance to British taxation was universally established in the colonies. This brought on the war which finally separated the two countries and gave independence to ours. Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. Reader! whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practise virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.

– P. HENRY