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.

JAMES MADISON, CHRISTIAN FOUNDING FATHER

May 25th, 2010

James Wilson; Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

James Wilson of Pennsylvania may be a name you do not recognize. He arrived in Pennsylvania in 1765. As one of the eight framers of the Constitution, it is said that Wilson was second only to James Madison, and was perhaps on a par with him, in terms of influence on the Constitution. [1] He was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

There is much to say about this amazing man that we can not cover in one blog. There are two very important points to be made this time; one, he held the vision for a nation, and second, he was a devout Christian.

Christianity has been a major influence on the founding of our nation and in spite of increasing secularism it still is very much a force today. To say that our political tradition is not influenced by Christianity raises the question of why presidential candidates deem it so important to address Christians. That in itself demonstrates the recognition of reality – there is a practicing Christian population that influences politics. Political questions are ultimately moral questions and most moral views are framed by one’s religious commitments. James Wilson, without a doubt, was a major Christian influence on the framing of our nation’s constitution and law (he became a Supreme Court Judge later). He based formulating constitutional law on Christian natural law.

James Wilson was born in 1742 (Carskerdo, Scotland) and dedicated to the ministry at birth. He entered the University of St. Andrews and studied there for four years before entering their Divinity School. He was unable to complete his studies and had to withdraw due to his father’s death. After caring for family matters he came to Pennsylvania in 1765. He began his life in Pennsylvania by teaching Latin and Greek at the College of Philadelphia and then studied law under John Dickinson. He then became a lawyer and entered politics. It was one of his writings the jumpstarted him into the national scene.

“Wilson achieved national recognition in 1774 with the publication of ‘Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament,’ the first essay to argue that Americans had absolutely no obligation to obey Parliament. He was able to put his theory of resistance into practice after he was appointed to the Continental Congress in 1775. He became an important participant in the debates over the controversy with Great Britain, and eventually cast the tie-breaking vote in the Pennsylvania delegation in favor of independence.” [2]

All this led to his being one of eight framers of the Declaration of Independence and he also attended the Constitutional Convention where he was one of only six to sign both documents. Significantly, he also was among the few delegates that attended the convention from beginning to the finish. It is stated that he spoke 168 times, more than any other member. This is why he is ranked as the second most influential participant of the Constitutional Convention.

“Wilson clearly and consistently appealed to Christian principals throughout his works, something particularly evident and relevant with respect to his natural law theory. Given this reality, why do most contemporary students of Wilson ignore or refuse to take seriously his religious views?” [3]

“Wilson contended that because God created the world and has ‘infinite power-infinite wisdom-and infinite goodness,’ he has ‘supreme right to prescribe a law for our conduct, and that we are under the most perfect obligation to obey that law.’ [4] Similarly, he stated several times that our obligation to obey natural law is rooted in the ‘will of God.’ [5][6]

Space does not permit us to eleborate more fully on Wilson’s faith and Christian reasoning, but an excellent publication for this may be found at Google Books at http://goo.gl/SpTR starting at Page 181.

[1] James Bryce, “James Wilson: An Appreciation”, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (October 1936), Pg 360.
[2] Daniel L. Dreisback, Mark D. Hall, Jeffrey H. Morrison, Editors, The Founders On God and Government, 2004, Page 182, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
[3] Daniel L. Dreisback, Mark D. Hall, Jeffrey H. Morrison, Editors, The Founders On God and Government, 2004, Page 186, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
[4] Robert McClosky, Editor, The Works of James Madison, 2 Volumes (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967) Pages 128, 126, 132-33
[5] Robert McClosky, Editor, The Works of James Madison, 2 Volumes (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967) Pages 132, 150, 153
[6] Daniel L. Dreisback, Mark D. Hall, Jeffrey H. Morrison, Editors, The Founders On God and Government, 2004, Page 189, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

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

CONGRESSIONAL PROCLAMATION CALLS ON GOD FOR HELP

May 10th, 2010

Contrary to the belief that we are a secular nation and that we were not founded as a Christian nation, we continue to historically see our nation acknowledging our dependence on God. One Congressional proclamation, among many, very clearly calls on God, acknowledging our sins, recognizing Divine Providence in guiding our nation and outright calls on Him for help. One author states; “Congress itself was equally convinced that God was fighting its battles.” [1] Here is one of those powerful Proclamations:

Tuesday, March 19, 1782

Proclamation
The goodness of the Supreme Being to all his rational creatures demands their acknowledgments of gratitude and love; his absolute government of this world dictates that it is the interest of every nation and people ardently to supplicate his favor and implore his protection.

When the lust of dominion or lawless ambition excites arbitrary power to invade rights or endeavor to wrest from a people their sacred and inalienable privileges, and compels them, in defense of the same, to encounter all the horrors and calamities of a bloody and vindictive war, then is that people loudly called upon to fly unto that God for protection who hears the cries of the distressed and will not turn a deaf ear to the supplications of the oppressed.

Great Britain, hitherto left to infatuated councils and to pursue measures repugnant to her own interest and distressing to this country, still persists in the design of subjugating these United States; which will compel us into another active and perhaps bloody campaign.

The United States in Congress assembled, therefore, taking into consideration our present situation, our multiplied transgressions of the holy laws of our God, and his past acts of kindness and goodness towards us, which we ought to record with the liveliest gratitude, think it their indispensable duty to call upon the several States to set apart the last Thursday in April next as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, that our joint supplications may then ascend to the throne of the Ruler of the universe, beseeching him to diffuse a spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens, and make us a holy, that we may be a happy, people; that it would please him to impart wisdom, integrity, and unanimity to our counselors; to bless and prosper the reign of our illustrious ally, and give success to his arms employed in the defense of the rights of human nature; that he would smile upon our military arrangements by land and sea, administer comfort and consolation to our prisoners in a cruel captivity, protect the health and life of our commander-in-chief, grant us victory over our enemies, establish peace in all our borders, and give happiness to all our inhabitants; that he would prosper the labor of the husbandman, making the earth yield its increase in abundance, and give a proper season for the ingathering of the fruits thereof; that he would grant success to all engaged in lawful trade and commerce, and take under his guardianship all schools and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of virtue and piety; that he would incline the hearts of all men to peace, and fill them with universal charity and benevolence, and that the religion of our Devine Redeemer, with all its benign influences, may cover the earth as the waters cover the seas. [2]

Done by the United States in Congress assembled, &c. &c.

George Washington’s Reply to Congress

General Washington, in reply to a letter from the President of Congress, enclosing this proclamation, thus wrote from Mount Vernon November 15, 1781—

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 31st ult., covering the resolutions of Congress of the 26th, and a Proclamation for a day of public prayer and thanksgiving, and have to thank you, sir, for the very polite and affectionate manner in which these enclosures have been conveyed. The success of the combined arms against our enemies at York and Gloucester, as it affects the welfare and independence of the United States, I viewed as a most fortunate event.

In performing my part towards its accomplishment, I consider myself to have done only my duty, and the execution of that I ever feel myself happy; and at the same time, as it augurs well to our cause, I take a particular pleasure in acknowledging that the interposing hand of Heaven in the various instances of our extensive preparations for this operation has been most conspicuous and remarkable. [3]

[1] Derek H. Davis, Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789; Oxford Press 2000; Page 88
[2] Journals of the American Congress, 1782 From 1774 to 1778, Volume Four, From August 1, 1778 to March 30, 1782, inclusive; Page, 736
[3] Benjamin F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of The Civil Institutions of the United States, American Vision, Inc., Powder Springs, GA; Page 671

CHURCH SERVICE HELD IN STATUARY HALL

May 7th, 2010

Members of Congress at Sunday Service at the Capitol

On Sunday, March 21, history was made in the U.S. Capitol. But the history I am talking about is not related to healthcare, legislation, or one political party or the other. At 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, as Members of Congress were in session to vote on healthcare legislation, I was privileged to organize a church service in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Over 250 people, including Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, their spouses and their staffs, took part in the service. No healthcare legislation was discussed. No political agenda was present. The only matter at hand was acknowledgement of faith and recognition of our national’s spiritual heritage.

Many do not know that church services were once held in the old House chamber, which is now Statuary Hall, from 1800-1857. On December 4, 1800, Congress approved the use of the Capitol building as a church. Approval was given by both the House and the Senate, with House approval being given by Frederick Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House, and Senate approval being given by Thomas Jefferson, then President of the Senate.

In fact, while serving as Vice-President, Jefferson regularly attended church at the Capitol. Additionally, the first church service that he attended in the Capitol as President was on January 3, 1802, just two days after authoring the letter in which he used the now famous “wall of separation between church and state” phrase.

Together, Republicans and Democrats brought that historical service back to the halls of Congress and reestablished a precedent to be used for years to come. I was honored to be a part of the Sunday Service at the Capitol that was once regularly attended by presidents from Jefferson to Lincoln.

Source: Congress J. Randy Forbes, e-mail newsletter April 27, 2010

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

PROVINCIAL CONGRESS CALLS FOR FASTING AND PRAYER

May 2nd, 2010

Colony of Massachusetts Provincial Congress Proclamation April 15, 1775

As we continue to look at our Christian foundations of our country, state constitutions reflect the moral and political conditions of a civil state by recognition of a higher power than mankind itself. In fact these constitutions recognize that God’s sovereignty, unity and order He established in creating man. The constitutions often reflect this dependency on God and go even further by incorporating Judeo-Christian law. Unfortunately, the Constitution of the United States today is undergoing the most aggressive challenges of progressive interpretations that change the Founding Father’s intent. Today we will look at a 1775 Colony of Massachusetts Provincial Congress Proclamation addressing a time of conflict and calling for a day of humility, prayer and fasting. Remember, this is the civil government making this declaration.

Provincial Congress, Concord, Mass.,
Saturday, April 15, 1775, A.D.

Whereas it hath pleased the righteous Sovereign of the universe, in just indignation against the sins of a people long blessed with inestimable privileges, civil and religious, to suffer the plots of wicked men on both sides of the Atlantic, who for many years have incessantly labored to sap the foundation of our public liberties, so far to succeed that we see the New England colonies reduced to the ungracious alternative of a tame submission to a state of absolute vassalage to the will of a despotic minister, or of preparing themselves to defend at the hazard of their lives the inalienable rights of themselves and prosperity against the avowed hostilities of their parent state, who openly threaten to wrest them from their hands by fire and sword.

In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us, as men and Christians, to reflect that, whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgment, or to prepare to act in a proper manner under them when they come, at the same time, all confidence must be withheld from the means we use, and repose only on that God who rules in the armies of heaven, and without whose blessing the best human counsels are but foolishness, and all created power vanity.

It is the happiness of the church, that when the powers of earth and hell are combined against it, and those who should be nursing fathers become its persecutors, then the Throne of Grace is of the easiest access, and its appeal thither is graciously invited by that Father of Mercies who has assured it that “when his children ask bread, he will not give them a stone.” Therefore, in compliance with the laudable practice of the people of God in all ages, with humble regard to the steps of Divine Providence towards this oppressed, threatened, and endangered people, and especially in obedience to the command of Heaven, that binds us to call on him in the day of trouble:

Resolved, That it be, and hereby is, recommended to the good people of this colony, of all denominations, that Thursday, the eleventh day of May next, be set apart as a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that a total abstinence from servile labor and recreation be observed, and all their religious assemblies solemnly convened, to humble themselves before God under the heavy judgments felt and feared; to confess the sins they have committed; to implore the forgiveness of all our transgressions; a spirit of repentance and reformation; and a blessing on the husbandry, manufactures, and other lawful employment of this people; and especially that the union of the American colonies, in defense of their rights (for which hitherto we desire to thank Almighty God) may be preserved and confirmed; that the Provincial, and especially the Continental, Congresses, may be directed to such measures as God will countenance; that the people of Great Britain and their rulers may have their eyes opened to discern the things that make for the peace of the nation and all its connections; and that America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven for the redress of her many grievances, the restoration of all her invaded liberties, and their security to the latest generations.

Ordered, That the foregoing be copied, authenticated, and sent to all the religious assemblies in this colony.
Watertown, Nov. 20.

This Proclamation was signed by John Hancock, President, Provincial Congress

Source: Benjamin F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character Of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Pages 288-290; 2007, American Vision, Powder Springs, GA

Illustration: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, Library of Congress; http://goo.gl/0Roa