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“And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” These familiar lines begin the world’s most incredible story. It is contained in the second chapter of Luke in the world’s most incredible book.
Let us pause during this Christmas season to reflect on the Founders opinions of the Bible and the role of the Bible in the founding of America.
Recently, Dr. Donald S. Lutz and Dr. Charles S. Hyneman made an extensive study to determine which books the Founders relied upon for the basic ideas that went into the formulation of the United States Constitution.
They reviewed an estimated 15,000 items, and closely perused the political content of 2,200 books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and monographs which were published between 1760 and 1805. The most significant items were selected which amounted to 916 articles. These were carefully analyzed and numerically coded as to content as well as the references cited by the leaders of that era.
It very quickly became apparent where the focus of interest was concentrated in the minds of the Founding Fathers. Of the thousands of citations quoted to support their ideas, 34% came from one source — the Bible. ( The Majesty of God’s Law , p.1)
On July 4, 1821, John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States declared:
“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.
“From the day of the Declaration … they (the American people) were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of The Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledge as the rules of their conduct.” (Federer, William J., America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations , FAME Publishing, Inc., Coppell, TX, 1994, p.18, All following quotes are taken from this source.)
On July 4, 1837, in a speech celebrating the 61st Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration, John Quincy Adams proclaimed to the inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport:
“Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day.
“Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the Progress of the Gospel dispensation?
“Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?
“That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before.” (p. 18)
Eleven years earlier, John Quincy Adams advised his son to form a habit of daily scripture study, being the best way to become useful citizens of the country. Said he:
“This information gave me real pleasure; for so great is my veneration for the Bible, and so strong my belief, that when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy-that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more steadily they pursue the practice of reading it throughout their lives, the more lively and confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens of their country, respectable members of society, and a real blessing to their parents….
“I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year….
“My custom is, to read four to five chapters every morning immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time….
“It is essential, my son, in order that you may go through life with comfort to yourself, and usefulness to your fellow-creatures, that you should form and adopt certain rules or principles, for the government of your own conduct and temper….
“It is in the Bible, you must learn them, and from the Bible how to practice them. Those duties are to God, to your fellow-creatures, and to yourself. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thy self.’ On these two commandments, Jesus Christ expressly says, ‘hang all the law and the prophets’; that is to say, the whole purpose of Divine Revelation is to inculcate them efficaciously upon the minds of men….
“Let us, then, search the Scriptures …. The Bible contains the revelation of the will of God. It contains the history of the creation of the world, and of mankind; and afterward the history of one peculiar nation, certainly the most extraordinary nation that has ever appeared upon the earth.
“It contains a system of religion, and of morality, which we may examine upon its own merits, independent of the sanction it receives from being the Word of God… (p. 16)
James McHenry, one of the signers of the Constitution of the United States, was a member of the Continental Congress, a state legislator, a soldier and the U.S. Secretary of War who supervised the establishment of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
He was also a physician, having studied under the renowned Dr. Benjamin Rush, himself a signer of the Declaration of Independence. James McHenry served with distinction under General Washington on the medical staff during the Revolutionary War. Fort McHenry, where, in 1812, the battle with Britain occasioned the writing of our national anthem, was named after him.
In 1813 he became the president of the first Bible society in Baltimore. He conveys the urgency of distributing Bibles to the public in an article to solicit funds for the society:
“Neither, in considering this subject, let it be overlooked, that public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures.
“The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness.
“In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.
“Consider also, the rich do not possess aught more precious than their Bible, and that the poor cannot be presented by the rich with anything of greater value. Withhold it not from the poor. It is a book of councils and directions, fitted to every situation in which man can be placed. It is an oracle which reveals to mortals the secrets of heavens and the hidden will of the Almighty….
“It is an estate, whose title is guaranteed by Christ, whose delicious fruits ripen every season, survive the worm, and keep through eternity. It is for the purpose of distributing this divine book more effectually and extensively among the multitudes, whose circumstances render such a donation necessary, that your cooperation is most earnestly requested.” (p. 442-3)
Thomas Jefferson, while being the 3rd President, chaired the school board for the District of Columbia, where he authored the first plan of education adopted by the city of Washington, which used the Bible and Isaac Watts’ Hymnal as the principle books to teach reading to students.
On March 23, 1801, Thomas Jefferson wrote from Washington, D.C. to Moses Robinson:
“The Christian Religion, when divested of the rags in which the [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.” (p. 324)
Patrick Henry boldly declared:
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” (p. 289)
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story succinctly clarified the original meaning of the First Amendment when he said:
“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government.” (p.25)
Fisher Ames was a Congressman from Massachusetts in the First Session of the Congress of the United States, during the time the Bill of Rights were being formulated. It was Fisher Ames who had suggested the wording of the First Amendment which was adopted by the House:
“Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.”
The very person who helped draft the First Amendment also realized the need to restore the Bible to its prominent role in our schools. Said he:
“Should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a schoolbook? Its morals are pure; its examples are captivating and noble…. In no Book is there so good English, so pure and so elegant, and by teaching all the same they will speak alike, and the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.” (p.26)
In his diary, date February 22, 1756, John Adams dreamed what it would be like if each person lived according to Biblical teachings:
“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.” (p.5)
Please consider NCCS as you may be making year-end contributions. We are continuing to bring you products which will make it easier and more exciting to spread the founders’ message.