America’s Christian Foundation
July 3, 2022
Deuteronomy 32:7 (ESV)
Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.
Throughout the Scripture God constantly reminded the Israelites of their history. He wanted them to remember how he had blessed them so that they would not wander from his ways. But Psalm 78:11 says, They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them. Revival occurred when the people remembered God’s goodness and returned to his Word.
As Americans and devoted followers of Christ, it is imperative that we remember our nation’s history.
George Orwell (from “1984”) Who controls the past controls the future: Who controls the present controls the past.
In other words, those who want to push our country further away from God know they must first rewrite our history. We have generations of Americans who are historically illiterate. They have been led to believe that our country’s founding was immoral and permanently flawed.
Let’s take a moment to consider our nations founding.
On December 20, 1605, 105 settlers and 39 seamen set sail from England for the New World. The Virginia Charter, established under King James I, stated among the reasons for the proposed colony:
[to propagate] the Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God…
Among the colonists was an Anglican minister, Robert Hunt. On April 26, 1607 Rev. Hunt led the group ashore to Cape Henry in present day Virginia Beach. A 7ft tall cross, brought with them from England, was planted in the ground. Hunt then led the colonists in a prayer of thanksgiving and dedicated the land to God.
In his sermon, Hunt reminded them how the Lord said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up (Matthew 15:13).
Then lifting up his hand toward heaven, Robert Hunt declared, “…from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World but the entire world.” The cross is still included in the official seal of the city of Virginia Beach, my hometown. I am a small part of the answer to his prayer.
The colonists sailed 60 miles inland and established Jamestown, which became the first permanent English settlement in America. (But just barely. At one point the situations so dire, so many had died from starvation, disease, and ongoing hostilities with the Powhatan Indians, that the few remaining colonist boarded a ship and headed back for home —only to be met by a supply ship from England with fresh provision and more people. They encouraged the colonists to return.)
Church services in Jamestown were first held under an old sail until the church building was constructed. The colonists gathered three times a day for prayer. Church attendance was compulsory on Sundays. The church was also the site for the first representative government in America, the House of Burgesses.
The Mayflower Compact was written and signed by the Pilgrims before coming ashore in 1620. It reads in part:
Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, [we propose] a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia…
But storms sent them north to present day Massachusetts, where they landed at Plymouth Rock.
The Pilgrims originally had a “common storehouse” economy, where all things were shared equally. It was basically socialism. It was well intended, but it didn’t work.
William Bradford, the governor, realized that those who had a slothful disposition were not motivated to work, since they were provided for regardless of their labors. And those who were industrious soon became disenchanted since their efforts were not fairly rewarded. The results were disastrous. After two years, there was not enough food to sustain them, only a fraction of the Pilgrims remained alive.
The leaders then abandoned socialism and embarked on a new direction, based on Scripture, of private ownership; what we would call a free-market.
America, as a nation, was born in revival, in what is commonly called, the Great Awakening.
In 1818 a young historian asked John Adams who were the principle leaders in the movement for American independence. Surprisingly, Adams named clergymen. He said that the truth that thundered from pulpits across America lit a flame in the hearts of men. Pastors in 18th century America were not afraid to address controversial issues from a biblical perspective.
Ministers played a pivotal role in the War for Independence.
When the British sent 700 soldiers to Lexington, 70 church members from the congregation of Rev. Jonas Clark met them. Then at Concord the British were met by 300 men from the church of Rev. William Emerson. As the British retreated to Boston over 19 miles they were confronted by 4,500 Americans —men from several congregations who were rallied to the cause by their pastors.
In 1774 the Provisional Continental Congress was first convened, to discuss the possibility of separation from England. One of the first official acts was to have a prayer meeting. According to several accounts, they prayed fervently for three hours. John Adams said of the meeting, “It was enough to melt a heart of stone.”
Several times during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress called for days of prayer and fasting, as well as thanksgiving to God. For example, in March 16, 1776 Congress declared:
The Congress…desirous…to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence…do earnestly recommend…a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life appease His righteous displeasure and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness.
At the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin, who was considered one of the least religious of the founding fathers, made the following speech on June 28, 1787:
I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth —that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that, “except the Lord build, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel…
I therefore beg leave to move —that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.
To this day, both the Senate and the House of Representatives Congress begin each day in prayer. No one thinks it is unconstitutional since the very people who wrote constitution established the practice.
The question is often asked: Were the founding fathers really Christians?
There were 204 individuals who either signed the Declaration of Independence, signed the Articles of Confederation, attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and/or signed the Constitution, or served as Senators or Representatives in the first Congress. The overwhelming majority were professing Christians. And notably, not one of these 204 men were atheist or agnostics, or “not religious.”
29 out of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held the equivalent of a seminary or theology degree. Several signers were actively involved in ministry at the time of signing or had previously served in church work. Some of the founding fathers wrote and published gospel tracts.
But how do we know what these founding fathers believed? The founding fathers were prolific writers. (George Washington’s writings are contained in 97 volumes. Thomas Jefferson in 60 vols. Ben Franklin, 40 vols. John Adams, 33 vols.) More than any other source, our founding fathers quoted the Bible. 34% of their quotations came directly from the Bible; the next highest source, John Locke, also a deeply devoted believer, only 8.4%.
In 1669 John Locke assisted in the drafting of the Carolina constitution under which no man could be a citizen unless he acknowledged God, was a member of a church, and used no “reproachful, reviling, or abusive language” against any religion.
John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, second president:
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.
Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence:
My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!
After July 4th, the now self-declared independent states had to form their own constitutions and state governments.
Delaware’s oath of office included this:
I ____ do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and the Holy Ghost, the one God blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.
In Virginia one could not even vote unless a Christian and a member of a church.
After the war, Congress convened to write the Constitution. The first amendment to the Constitution reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Today we frequently hear of “separation of church and state”—which has become a rally cry for all God-haters. And this statement supposedly excludes any form of religion (especially Christianity) in public life.
But what did the writers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights mean by the words used in the first amendment? It’s not difficult to know. We can read over the Congressional records which include the debate that surrounded it in 1789. It is clear that these men wanted a Christian country—but they did not want a state-church.
When George Washington was inaugurated as our first president in New York, he laid his hand on the Bible, took the oath, and added the words, So help me God. In his inaugural address, Washington gave thanks to God and urged the newly formed government to seek him.
Then, as part of the program, the entire Congress headed towards St. Paul’s church for a prayer meeting. Present were the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They evidently had no problem with Congress including a church service as part of the official proceedings.
One year after the Constitution was written, 1790, in one case the courts ruled:
By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed on the same equal footing.
1844 a school in Philadelphia wanted to teach morality but not religion (or more particularly Christianity). The US Supreme Court ruled:
Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament…be read and taught as a divine revelation in the school? Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament
Some of the justices in that court were appointed by James Madison himself
But where does the expression, “separation of Church and State” come from? It was contained in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to some Baptist pastors from Connecticut. These ministers were concerned that government would interfere in their right to worship. Jefferson’s letter was written to reassure them.
What would you think of a Democrat President who took federal money to buy Bibles to give to non-Christians? That’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson did.
But weren’t all the founding fathers racists and slave owners?
Senator Tim Kaine (Virginia) said on the floor of the Senate:
The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anyone. We created it.
I guess he never read the book of Exodus. Slavery is certainly a terrible thing, but it has existed in this world for thousands of years.
The Global African Slave Trade was from 1501-1875. During that time about 10 million people were enslaved and sent around the world. 43% of those slaves went to Brazil. Only 2.5% went to the United States.
In 1619 two English privateers intercepted a Portuguese slave ship off the coast of Virginia. The cargo and 19 slaves were off loaded in Jamestown. They were not made slaves because slavery was illegal in Virginia. They were made indentured servants —which is how most Englishmen came to America. They served for seven years at the end of that time they were given land.
A second ship load of slaves came to Massachusetts in 1642. The Pilgrims freed the slaves and arrested the slave sellers. Churches in the northern states were interracial. All of the units of the Continental Army were interracial. There were several black patriots who fought for in the Revolution, like James Armistead, America’s first double-agent who was instrumental in winning the battle of Yorktown.
Three-fourths of the Founding Fathers were anti-slavery. Prior to the Revolutionary War, every time the Continental Congress attempted to ban slavery, King George III over-ruled them.
The United States was the first nation to ban the international slave trade in 1807 a law signed by Thomas Jefferson. The United States was the fourth nation to make slavery illegal in 1865. There are 94 nations today where slavery is still legal.