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.

“GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH”

January 28th, 2010

Most all of us have heard the quote, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Very few know the entire speech that ended with this strong cry to stand for our freedom. Our current textbooks have deleted the context of these words. Once again, we see the faith of our ancestors in this speech. Let there be no mistake about where Patrick Henry stood; later in 1775, he wrote, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded the freedom of worship here.” [1]

To avoid interference from Lieutenant-Governor Dunmore and his Royal Marines, the Second Virginia Convention met March 20, 1775 inland at Richmond–in what is now called St. John’s Church–instead of the Capitol in Williamsburg. Delegate Patrick Henry presented resolutions to raise a militia, and to put Virginia in a posture of defense. Henry’s opponents urged caution and patience until the crown replied to Congress’ latest petition for reconciliation.

On the 23rd, Henry presented a proposal to organize a volunteer company of cavalry or infantry in every Virginia county. By custom, Henry addressed himself to the Convention’s president, Peyton Randolph of Williamsburg. Henry’s words were not transcribed, but no one who heard them forgot their eloquence, or Henry’s closing words: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” [2]

St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia
March 23, 1775.

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! [3]

[1] Speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, May, 1765
[2] “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death” Introduction, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, http://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/giveme.cfm

[3] Source: Wirt, William. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry. (Philadelphia) 1836, as reproduced in The World’s Great Speeches, Lewis Copeland and Lawrence W. Lamm, eds., (New York) 1973.

COURTS CITE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR OPINIONS

January 27th, 2010

Religious issues aside, the Ten Commandments played a pivotal role in the shaping of our nation’s law and history. The Commandments have traditionally been treated as an historical document, rather than one simply promoting a particular religious belief. Each of the Ten Commandments has influenced the laws of our nation, states, and communities

To deny the role that the Ten Commandments have played in the development of our nation’s laws and jurisprudence is to deny the very foundations upon which our nation is based. If we forget our moral foundation, then all other aspects of a free and democratic society will come tumbling down. In addition, the respect for all law weakens—resulting in social anarchy—and a far more dangerous place to live.

That is why the Ten Commandments must be viewed as an historical document upon which almost all of American jurisprudence is based—and not an unconstitutional establishment of religion… [End Note]

In a 1950 the Florida Supreme Court case declared,

“Different species of democracy have existed for more than 2,000 years, but democracy as we know it has never existed among the unchurched. A people unschooled about the sovereignty of God, the ten commandments and the ethics of Jesus, could never have evolved the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There is not one solitary fundamental principle of our democratic policy that did not stem directly from the basic moral concepts as embodied in the Decalog and the ethics of Jesus . . . No one knew this better than the Founding Fathers.” [1]

In 1998 a Wisconsin appeals court cited a 1974 Indiana Supreme Court opinion that said:

“Virtually all criminal laws are in one way or another the progeny of Judeo-Christian ethics. We have no intention to overrule the Ten Commandments.” [2]

In 1924, the Oregon Supreme Court stated,

“No official is above the law. ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ is a command of the Decalogue, and that forbidden act is denounced by the statute as a felony.” [3]

In 1921, the Maine Supreme Court held:

“To curse God means to scoff at God; to use profanely inso- lent and reproachful language against him. This is one form of blasphemy under the authority of standard lexicogra- phers. To contumeliously reproach God, His Creation, gov- ernment, final judgment of the world, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, or the Holy Scriptures as contained in the canonical books of the Old Testament and New Testament, under the same authorities, is to charge Him with fault, to rebuke, to censure, to upbraid, doing the same with scornful insolence, with disdain, with contemptuousness in act or speech. This is another form of blasphemy. But as particularly applicable, perhaps, to the present case, it is blasphemy to expose any of these enumerated Beings or Scriptures to contempt and ridicule. To have done any of these things is to blaspheme under the statute as well as at common law…” [4]

End Note – Alliance Defense Fund (ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training , funding , and litigation), Ten Commandments pamphlet, 2005; http://www.alliancedefensefund.org
[1] State v. City of Tampa, 48 So. 2d 78 (1950), see also Commissioners of Johnson County v. Lacy, 93 S.E. 482, 487 (N.C. 1917) “Our laws are founded upon the Decalogue.”
[2] Wisconsin V. Schultz, 582 N.W.2d, 112, 117 (Wis. App. 1998) (quoting Sumpter v. Indiana, 306 N.E.2d 95, 101 [Ind 1974])
[3] Watts v. Gerking, 228 P. 135, 141 (Or. 1924)
[4] State v. Mockus, 113A. 39, 42 (Me. 1921)

The Covenant Origins Of The American Polity

January 26th, 2010

Entire article is an excerpt from The Covenant Origins Of The American Polity, Steven Alan Sampson, Liberty University, Professor of Government; Copyright 1994; http://www.americanreformation.org/Philosophy/Polity/polity.htm#fn4

It is not uncommon for historians to view America as an experimental laboratory in political theory and practice in which the American character is represented as a triumph of common sense over ideology. The title of one influential book, Inventing America, and the subtitle of another, How Europe Imagined and America Realized the Enlightenment, together reflect a long fascination with the “Yankee ingenuity” and “can do” spirit of a nation of tinkerers. [1]

This may help explain why history books often neglect to acknowledge the religious dimension of this experiment. Yet far from being inconsequential, religion — and particularly the Christian concept of vocation — is the wellspring of this spirit of practicality that gave substance to the desire for a greater degree of self-government and led to the development of greater religious and political liberty.[2] The so-called Protestant work-ethic to which Max Weber attributed the material progress of northern Europeans is simply one expression of the Pauline injunction to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

It may be true, as well, that “pure Religious Liberty… may be confidently reckoned as of distinctly American origin”, as Sanford Cobb claimed.[3] But like the Yankee ingenuity thesis, it is an oversimplification which fails to acknowledge the long train of historical circumstances and preconditions that made such liberty possible. After all, religious liberty did not spring, like Athena, in full armor from the head of Zeus. Unlike Eli Whitney, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Alva Edison, not to mention a host of less famous figures, the inventors of our familiar liberties — if any existed — are practically unknown. Yet who would claim that these liberties are less important than the invention of interchangeable parts, the telephone, or the light bulb? Are they simply the result of historical accident? Or is there perhaps some rhyme or reason to their appearance at certain times and places?

Earlier Americans, including our most influential historians, generally regarded the settlement and development of our country less as a testimony to frontier inventiveness than as an indication of God’s providential blessings. Indeed, they believed that America, both the land and the people, had been designed for a specific purpose and destiny. [4] Franklin Littell offered the following synopsis of this motif:

For many of our forefathers, at least, the planting of America represented a major break from past history and a radical advance into a new age. God had hidden America until such a time as the Reformation could guarantee that the religion planted on these shores would be pure and evangelical.Certain writers linked three great events by which God’s Providence prepared the coming of the New Age: (1) the invention of printing, whereby the Bible was made available to all; (2) the Reformation, whereby cult and confession were purified; (3) the discovery of America. Even such relatively sober men as Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards linked the discovery of America with the coming triumph of the eternal gospel. [5]

The once commonly held conviction, that God providentially directs the historical paths of men and nations, is a missing note in contemporary scholarship. So thoroughly secularized have our academic and popular histories become that any mention of Providence sounds quaint, insincere, or irrelevant. [6] Evocations of a distinctly Christian viewpoint on public occasions are rare today even compared with just forty years ago when Judge Learned Hand said the following in his famous “Spirit of Liberty” speech:

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which waives their interest alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near 2000 years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. [7]

[1] Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978); Henry Steele Commager, The Empire of Reason: How Europe Imagined and America Realized the Enlightenment (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977)
[2] A recent exception is the first volume of a massive cultural history that identifies and compares the contributions of “four British folkways” to the development of the American culture. See David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). The author contends that regional and cultural differences in America are the legacy of several distinct groups from the British Isles — particularly the Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borderers — who hailed from different regions, migrated during different historical periods, and took up residence indifferent regions: Massachusetts, Virginia, the Delaware Valley, and the Backcountry respectively.
[3] Sanford H. Cobb, The Rise of Religious Liberty in America: A History (New York: Macmillan, 1902; Burt Franklin, 1970), p. 36. David Hackett Fischer, op. cit., by the way, distinguishes different conceptions of liberty that prevailed among the four British folk groupings: the ordered liberty of the Massachusetts Puritan (and later Yankee), the hegemonic liberty of the Virginia Cavalier, the reciprocal liberty of the Delaware Valley Quaker, and the natural liberty of the Backcountry Borderer.
[4] The idea that America has a divine mission to perform was not limited to the majority Protestants. For example, shortly after the Civil War ended, Orestes A. Brownson wrote: “The United States, or the American republic, has a mission and is chosen of God for the realization of a great idea… Its idea is liberty, indeed, but liberty with law, and law with liberty. But its mission is not so much the realization of liberty as the realization of the true idea of the state, which secures at once the authority of the public and the freedom of the individual –the sovereignty of the people without social despotism, and individual freedom without anarchy.” Orestes A. Brownson, “The American Republic [1866]”, in The Brownson Reader, ed. Alvan S. Ryan (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1955), pp. 70-71.
[5] Franklin H. Littell, “The Churches and the Body Politic“, in Religion in America, ed. William G. McLoughlin and Robert N. Bellah (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968), pp. 25-26. The Rev. S. W. Foljambe strictly adhered to this formula as late as 1876 in the annual election sermon he delivered in Boston. The sermon has been excerpted and reprinted as “The Hand of God in American History” in Verna M. Hall, comp., The Christian History of the American Revolution: Consider and Ponder (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1976), pp. 46-50.
[6] This is not to say that the idea of Providence has disappeared from the secular mind. It simply assumes new guises. Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), p. 6, makes a similar point: “Western society, in turnings away from Christian faith, has turned to other things. This process is commonly called secularization, but that conveys only the negative aspect. The word connotes the turning away from the worship of God while ignoring the fact that something is being turned to in its place.” Walter Lippmann, for instance, suggested that when a totalitarian regime like the Soviet Union describes its vision of a “socialist commonwealth embracing the whole world…”, it ascribes to it the attributes of God: perfect authority and justice, miracles, omnipotence, and omniscience. “It is to believe not in human government but in a Providential state.” Walter Lippmann, The Good Society (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1936: 1943), pp. 70-71.
[7] Learned Hand, The Spirit of Liberty: Papers and Addresses, ed. Irving Dilliard (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952), p. 190.

CONNECTICUT FOUNDED ON WORD OF GOD

January 25th, 2010

Part 2

Connecticut became the third established colony to have a constitution and receive a Charter. Prior to the Charter, several Connecticut communities had established constitutions based on the word of God.

Thomas Hooker (1586–1647) founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was a prominent Puritan religious and colonial leader, an ordained minister and was a great speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage. [1]

Connecticut calls itself the ‘Constitution State’ and there is a good reason for this. The founders of Connecticut created a significant charter for self-government entitled The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. This document became the first complete constitution in the New World. Moreover, it was based on a sermon by their founder, the Reverend Thomas Hooker. [2] In fact, it has also been called, “the first written constitution …in the history of nations.” [3]

Hooker’s sermon on May 31st, 1638 emphasized “the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by Gods own allowance,” and that “they who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them,” because “the foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people.” [4] His advocacy was to establish a government of law and order by and subject to the will of the people and base it on the word of God. The final constitution was signed on January 14, 1639 and it was the beginning of our Republic and democracy. Thomas Hooker, for this reason, is a founding father to our United States Constitution that was written 150 years later.

Fundamental Orders of 1639

For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth: [5]

This great constitution declares Divine Providence at its core, calls all settlers to be in a covenant “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” and to be guided and governed according to the constitution based on God’s word.

[1] History of the United States of America, Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904
[2] The Book That Made America, How the Bible Formed Our Nation, Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., Nordskog Publishing, 2009
[3] History of the first Church in Hartford, George Leon Walker, Brown & Gross, 1894; as quoted in The Christian History of the Constitution: Christian Self-Government, Verna Hall, Page 249
[4] The Founding of New England, James Truslow Adams, The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921; End Note: The text of the sermon has not survived and notes taken by some hearer are published in G.L. Walker, Thomas Hooker (New York, 1891), Page 125.
[5] Fundamental Orders of 1639, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library online at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/order.asp

CONNECTICUT FOUNDED ON WORD OF GOD

January 24th, 2010

Part 1

The settlers established many communities in Connecticut with most being Christian migrations from Massachusetts. Following the Jamestown and Plymouth Colonies, Connecticut became the third to receive a Charter. Prior to the Charter, several communities had established constitutions based on the word of God.

Thomas Hooker (1586–1647) founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was a prominent Puritan religious and colonial leader, an ordained minister and was a great speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage. Hooker also had a role in creating the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut”, one of the world’s first written constitutions. [1]

Before Hooker settled in Connecticut, there were other very important settlements. Adriaen Black, A Dutch navigator, was the first European to explore the Connecticut region when he sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614. In 1633, when English colonists from Massachusetts Bay Colony became interested in the fertile Connecticut Valley, the Dutch tried to protect their claims by building a fort near what is now Hartford on land purchased from the Pequot Indians. Undaunted, the English responded by settling at Windsor in 1633, Wethersfield in 1634, Hartford in 1635, and New Haven in 1638. They also founded additional communities along Island Sound. [2]

The first organization of civil society and government was made, in 1639, at Quinipiack, now the beautiful city of New Haven. The emigrants, men of distinguished piety and ability, met in a large barn, on the 4th of June, 1639, and in a very formal and solemn manner, proceeded to lay the foundations of their civil and religious polity. [3]

Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, a wealthy merchant from London, led a company of emigrants, mostly from Massachusetts, and pitched their tents on the northern shore of Long Island Sound. Here under a great oak Davenport expounded the Scriptures, saying that the people, like the Son of Man, were led forth into the wilderness to be tempted; and here they set up their government with the Mosaic law as their code adapted to the conditions, and with the closest union of Church and State. [4]

The Reverend John Davenport and Teophilus Eaton were the founders of New Haven. George Bancroft says in his historical account that, “After a day of fasting and prayer, they rested their first frame of government on a simple plantation covenant, that ‘all of them would be ordered by the rules which the Scriptures held forth to them.’” [5] Here is further historical proof of how our founders believed that the word of God had to be the foundation to our law and fundamental government.

We see that the government was instituted by the church. Mr. Davenport (who was a Pastor) introduced the subject of establishing the government from the words of Solomon, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” A committee of seven was formed that included Davenport and Eaton. They were known as “the seven pillars.” Essentially, once they had completed their work, New Haven made the Bible its governing law and order of government.

The FUNDAMENTAL ORDERS OF 1639 became the constitutional document establishing government in Connecticut. The preamble reads as follows:

“For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth:” [6]

The new General Court, established under this constitution, ordered “That God’s word should be the only rule for ordering the affairs of government in this commonwealth.” [7] Theophilus Eaton was elected Governor and held the position for 20 years. Mr. Davenport became the colony’s pastor.

[1] History of the United States of America, Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904
[2] America’s Christian History, Gary DeMar, American Vision, Inc., 1993, 1995
[3] The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin F. Morris, American Vision, Inc., Page 88
[4] History of the United States of America, Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904
[5] History of the Colonization of the United States, George Bancroft, Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841
[6] Fundamental Orders of 1639, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library online at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/order.asp
[7] The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin F. Morris, American Vision, Inc., Page 90

JOHN ELIOT – APOSTLE

January 21st, 2010

By the early 1630s it was nearly impossible for anyone with Puritan convictions to receive a pastoral position in the Church of England. For that reason, many left for the New World, including a pastor named John Eliot. Born in 1604, Eliot had received his education at Jesus College, Cambridge, and although he had taken orders in the Church of England, his sympathies were with the Puritan Party. For a period of time after his graduation from Cambridge, he had assisted Thomas Hooker (later the founder of Connecticut) at Chelmsford in Essex but even there the long arm of Laud exerted its influence by threatening him with suspension.

In 1631 Eliot decided to emigrate to the New World. He arrived at Massachusetts Bay Colony in July of that year on the same ship that brought the family of John Winthrop, the Colony’s first governor. He was invited to preach for several months at the First Church of Boston while their minister John Wilson was in England. Eliot’s preaching was so well received that he was offered the position of Teacher of the church, which he declined in favor of a similar offer from the church at Roxbury. He was settled in Roxbury as Teacher in October 1632 and remained there for fifty-seven years until his death in 1690.

When the Puritans came to the New World they had two goals. One was to form a pure church by separating themselves from the perceived corruptions of the English Church. The other was to bring the Gospel to the native inhabitants. On the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the figure of a Native American ringed by the words “Come over and help us” (Acts 16:9). Thus from its very foundation the Massachusetts Bay Colony articulated the desire to meet the spiritual needs of the native inhabitants of the New World, and there is no doubt that Eliot possessed the desire to carry out this objective. [1]

What is outstanding about the Reverend John Eliot is he truly was an Apostle. An Apostle is considered to be a missionary, but there is more depth to the work of an Apostle. They are responsible for building the church, its government and order. As such, Apostles are planters of the church and John Eliot was called “Apostle of the Indians” because of the fruit of his work. His influence became a major force of change and was far reaching. Consider these achievements:

  • Establishing the Company for Propagating the Gospel in New England, the first missionary organization in our country;
  • Eliot’s methods set the pattern of subsequent “Indian missions” for almost two centuries;
  • By 1674 there were 14 villages with 4,000 converts among the Indians;
  • His converts were gathered into Christian towns, governed by a biblical code of laws;
  • He established schools and encouraged others to establish schools;
  • He translated the Bible in the Algonquin Indian Language and published it in 1663 – it was the first Bible printed in the United States
  • He was influential in the founding of Harvard College (University) and became one of its Governors;
  • John Harvard (1607-1638), a disciple of John Eliot, and a Puritan minister, gave the unorganized college one-half of his estate (Cambridge, MA) and library; then it was named Harvard College in his honor in 1639;
  • Founded The Roxbury Latin School that is the oldest school in continuous operation in North America;
  • He wrote The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ. [2]

The Christian Commonwealth was a document intended as a plan of government for the Natick Indian community. John Eliot strongly believed government is to be founded on God’s word. Here is an excerpt:

[It is not for man] to search humane Polities and Platformes of Government, contrived by the wisdom of man, but as the Lord hath carried on their works for them, so they ought to go unto the Lord, and enquire at the Word of his mouth, what Platforme of Government he hath therein commanded; and humble themselves to embrace that as the best … [The] written Word of God is the perfect System or Frame of Laws, to guide all the Moral actions of man, either towards God or man.” [3]

John Eliot’s plan for the political organization based on the word of God has far reaching ramifications. Our constitutional liberties are a direct result of our founders’ moral and religious convictions which were based on a belief in a God who created heaven and earth as well as on the fixed and unchanging absolutes of God’s Word.

[1] Sola Scriptura, John Eliot and America’s First Bible
[2] Compiled from various historical accounts
[3] The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ, John Eliot, London, (written in 1649, published in 1659)

PLYMOUTH PLANTATION’S INFLUENCE ON OUR NATION

January 20th, 2010

In writing the story about the Plymouth Plantation, it was stated it influenced the direction of this nation in ways that many today do not realize. One of the reasons why most are not aware of the depth and magnitude of the early settler’s influence on our nation is because it is not in our history books. Many generations of students are now lacking the knowledge and understanding of the roots of our nation, and in particular the Christian history.

One can truly say that the rapid growth of the colony had a profound effect on molding our future nation. Twelve years after the Plymouth Plantation settlement was founded the colony had made significant progress. Consider these facts:

  • A population of more than 20,000 people;
  • Had planted 50 towns and villages;
  • Organized 30 to 40 churches;
  • Founded Harvard College (now a college within Harvard University); and,
  • Sent settlements through Massachusetts into New Hampshire and along the banks of the Connecticut River. [1]

What is even more profound is learning that Harvard University’s foundation was by a Puritan minister, John Eliot (1604-1690), with an explicit purpose of propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a missionary to the natives and called the “Apostle to the Indians.” His proposal to establish the college in 1633 was realized three years later. New England’s First Fruits (1643) describes what led to the founding of Harvard College:

After God had carried us safe to New England and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our lively-hood, rear’d convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the Civil Government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance Learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the Dust. [2]

The portrayal of the Puritans has been steeped in belittling them as religious fanatics. Puritans were far from being fanatics and were very progressive in the practical growth of their communities and influencing the future direction of our country. [3]

The founding of Harvard College is proof of the driving mission to honor and glorify God in their lives and civic communities, including the formation of our government.

This account establishes the well-educated men who migrated to the colonies and led Harvard College:

“The Puritan migration which established the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut was led by alumni of Oxford and Cambridge. About a hundred Cambridge University men, and one third of that number from the University of Oxford, emigrated to New England before 1646, and from these alumni were recruited the founders and first governors of Harvard College.” [4]

The Puritans emphasized education and required a broad study of liberal arts, logic, metaphysics, natural science and natural philosophy. They surrounded these studies with a Christian influence, both outwardly and inwardly. Christian worship began and ended each college day, signaling that all was to be dedicated to the glory of the God. When pagan elements conflicted with Christian truths, the clerics provided Christian perspectives. The Puritans emphasized that all vocations were sacred. Over half (52%) of Harvard graduates in the 17th century became clergymen. [5]

The Puritan’s primary goal for all education was “Christian nurture and growth”. [6] This was prominent in “The Statues of Harvard,” the rules and guidelines for students:

Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2, 3).”[7]

This is the true history of our nation – that we were founded on the Rock of our Salvation.

[1] The Religious Foundations of America, Charles Lemuel Thompson, D.D., L.L.D., Fleming H. Revell Company, 1919, Page 140
[2] America’s Christian History, Gary DeMar, American Vision, Inc., 1993, Page 102
[3] End Note: Pilgrims and Puritans together represented two variants of Christian doctrine. Today this would be seen as different schools of theology and those denominations and churches that represent these doctrines. None of this diminishes the depth of our ancestors and their insightful leadership that brought about the United States of America as a Christian nation.
[4] The Founding of Harvard College, Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard University Press, 1998 (reprinted from the 1935 edition), Page 40
[5] The Soul of the American University, From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief, George M. Marsden, Oxford University Press, Copyright 1998
[6] Worldly Saints, Leland Rykell, 1986, Zondervan, Page 16
[7] Rules and Precepts Observed at Harvard College, dated September 26, 1642; Also, American Higher Education: A Documentary History, Volume 1, Statutes of Harvard, ca. 1646, Richard Hofstadter and Wilson Smith, Editors, University of Chicago Press, 1961

THE PLYMOUTH PLANTATION

January 19th, 2010

[Reading THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT (January 19th, 2010) blog before this story will help understand the events leading to the foundation of the Plymouth Colony]

A new era in history began on December 22, 1620 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The pilgrims landed and their very first act was to kneel down and offer their thanksgiving to God, and by a solemn act of prayer, and in the name and for the sake of Christ, to take possession of the continent. By doing this, they repeated the Christian consecration which Columbus, more than a century before, had given to the New World, and so twice in the most formal and solemn manner it was devoted to Christ and Christian civilization. [1]

The Plymouth Plantation was to influence the direction of this nation in ways that many today do not realize. The day the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock has been canonized in American history. The Christian seed planted that day has birthed great fruit, blessed this nation and enriched the world. It speaks of the greatness of God and body of believers that were faithful in living according to God’s word.

A popular woman poet wrote a poem on the Pilgrims that ended with these words:

Turn ye to Plymouth’s beach, – and on that rock
Kneel in their foot-prints, and renew the vow
They breathed to God.
[2]

The Plymouth Plantation was first a religious society, secondly an economic enterprise, and, last, a political commonwealth governed by biblical standards. The religious convictions of the Pilgrims were clearly expressed in the drafting of the Mayflower Compact, “. . . for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith.” [3].

John Carver was the first Governor of Plymouth. He was key in the foundation of the settlement. In 1617 he became an agent representing the pilgrims in securing a charter and funding to establish a New World colony. He chartered the Mayflower and joined colonists that set sail from Plymouth, England in September, 1620. He in fact personally helped finance the expedition.

Unfortunately, although Carver survived the first winter where half the colony died, he only lived another year before his death. He was eulogized as being a pious, humble man who cared for the sick, labored to feed the hungry and “being one alsoe of a Considerable estate spent the Maine prte of it in this enterprise.” [4]

William Bradford became Governor after Carvers death in 1621 and became the Colony’s historian. He chronicles the history as they related up to the landing and completes the history of the settlement up to 1650. Bradford demonstrated the Pilgrims were motivated by evangelism:

“Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some ways towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great work.” [5]

By the Pilgrim’s own words and the Governor’s historical record, the foundation of our nation, first and foremost, is as a Christian society.

[1] The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Benjamin F. Morris, American Vision, Inc., 2007, Page 66
[2] The Pilgrims, Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865); The American Commonplace Book of Poetry, George B. Cheever, Hooker & Agnew, 1841, Page 48-51
[3] America’s Christian History, Gary DeMar, American Vision, Inc., 1993, 1995
[4] Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, by William Bradford, edited by Samuel Eliot Morison (New York: 1991); Mourt’s Relation (Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth), from journals of pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow, edited by Jordan D. Fiore (1985: Plymouth)
[5] Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement, 1608-1650, rendered in Modern English by Harold Paget, E. P. Dutton & Company, 1909, 1920

THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

January 19th, 2010

There were 104 people that boarded the ship Mayflower to head for the New World. The Mayflower journey is historically very important. It was the beginning of the second Colony, the Plymouth Plantation, and our country’s foundation as a Christian Nation. We will see our form of government taking place here, albeit a seed in the form of a signed agreement called the Mayflower Compact.

The people, known as the Pilgrims (English Separatist) [1], had escaped religious persecution in England. They fled to Holland for religious freedom, but after a while (about 12 years) decided to leave due to ungodly influences on their children. They charted the Mayflower, a cargo ship that sailed between the ports of Europe, to be transported to the Hudson River, what is now New York City. The ship was under the command of Christopher Jones. It was approximately 100 feet in length, and 25 feet in breadth and was a typical vessel of the time. There were about 30 crew members. Another important fact is that not all the 104 passengers were Pilgrims. Some were ‘strangers’ [1], simply meaning they were not English Separatists. What is important about this voyage is the fact the passengers had received permission to set up a colony in Virginia by the London Company. They spent 66 days sailing to reach the New World from the English port. Two people died while on the voyage, one passenger and one crew member, leaving 102 passengers arriving in the New World.

Land was sighted on November 9, 1620. On November 11, 1620, while in the cabin of the Mayflower, in what is now Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod, The Mayflower Compact was written and signed. Some of the passengers had begun to question the authority of the group’s leaders now that they had arrived in the New World. Before the Pilgrims sailed, they were granted a charter that authorized them to start a settlement in the northern part of the Virginia Colony. However, since they were in Massachusetts instead of Virginia, the charter was no longer considered valid, and leaders worried about a possible mutiny. The Mayflower Document was originally drawn up to be an interim governing document between charters. The Pilgrims eventually requested a new charter, and in 1621 they were granted the Second Peirce Patent. However, the Mayflower Compact remained in effect until 1691. [2]

Governor William Bradford said this about The Mayflower Compact,

“This day, before we came to harbour, observing some not well affected to unity and concord, but gave some appearance of faction, it was thought good there should be an association and agreement, that we should combine together in one body and to submit to such government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose, and set our hands to this that follows, word for word.” [2]

The original Mayflower Compact document has been lost. Governor William Bradford, however, wrote a history of Plymouth Colony, and we have his version of the document. Originally written in King’s English, the version below is from the National Constitution Center website at: http://constitutioncenter.org/ncc_edu_Mayflower_Compact.aspx

Composed by William Bradford
Adopted November 11, 1620

[This Compact, drawn up in the cabin of the Mayflower, was not a constitution, a document defining and limiting the functions of government. It was, however, the germ of popular government in America.

“In the name of God, Amen.
We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the 11 of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.” [3]

We’ll follow this accounting with the foundation of the Plymouth Plantation in our next blog.

[1] Bradford, William (1898) [1651]. Hildebrandt, Ted. ed (PDF). Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation”. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co.; Publication is online at:
http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/NEReligiousHistory/Bradford-Plimoth/Bradford-PlymouthPlantation.pdf
[2] Various compiled history accounts
[3] Journal of the Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford, as reprinted in 1864 (The Old English is translated into modern English for this article).

CHARTER OF VIRGINIA ESTABLISHED CHRISTIAN PURPOSE

January 18th, 2010

The beginning of our nation came through 13 independent colonies that had their own constitutions prior to the Declaration of Independence. The original Charters that established the colonies will demonstrate how we came to be a Christian nation.

The first settlement was the Jamestown Colony in Virginia (1607) followed by the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts (1620). These Charters are the very foundation of America and the Christian religion was the underlying foundation of Charters. Essentially our ancestors firmly believed in and practiced total reliance on God’s providence. It was this faith that strengthened them to continue even in the face of more than half of the population that died.

The Charter from The London Company that financed this settlement clearly emphasizes the Christian character of their mission. The first Charter of Virginia set forth its purpose [1]:

“We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God,” [2]

The strong faith of these settlers began immediately after landing in May of 1607 with worship services led by the Reverend Robert Hunt. He was the Chaplain of the Colony and immediately had set up a place outside to work, study and write his sermons. Once settled in the fort, the whole company, except those who were on guard, attended regular prayer and services led by the Reverend Hunt. Charles Lemuel Thompson, when writing about this, said, “There the first seed for English Christianity on the American continent was sown.” [3]

Even more extraordinary is the fact that those that landed at Jamestown were not prepared for the hardships they encountered. Many were gentlemen, unaccustomed to hard labor. There were periods of depressing times, crushed hopes and difficult days. More than half of the original founders died! They reached a point when food was all but gone, yet they prayed in faith and God heard their prayers delivering the needed provisions through the Indians.

A few years later a new Governor of Jamestown, Lord de La Warr, arrived in 1610 and found the colony on the verge of collapse. Reverend Robert Hunt had died earlier in 1607, so his very first action was to organize a worship service and issue a biblical call for sacrifice and enterprise. [4]

From the very first, it is more than evident that the very foundation to our society was based on the Pilgrim’s firm belief in Jesus Christ and that God was sovereign over all things. B.F. Morris in his momentous work was able to conclude, “The Christian religion was the underlying basis and pervading element of all the social and civil institutions of the Virginia colony.” [4]

[1] America’s Christian Heritage, Gary DeMar, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, Pages 14 and 15, Compiled
[2] The First Charter of Virginia; April 10, 1606 (Hening’s Statutes of Virginia, I, 57-66), The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library; Source: The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America; Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe, Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909.
[3] The Religious Foundations of America, Charles Lemuel Thompson, Page 83, 1917
[4] The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, B.F. Morris, George W. Childs, Philadelphia, PA., 1864, Page 94