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Posts Tagged ‘Christian faith of founding fathers’

 

We hear it again and again, especially this time of year: few of our founding fathers were Christians, many were Deists. That is, they believed God created the universe and set everything in motion, but he does not participate in the affairs of humanity.

Those who perpetuate such statements are ignoring a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

Last Independence Day we noted thirteen signers of the Declaration of Independence who clearly put their faith in Jesus. Their quotes from documents, letters, and last testaments offer the proof. You can access that post at Faith in a Participatory God.

This post provides proof-of-faith for ten more men who signed the Declaration.

Some of the quotes are lengthy; feel free to skim read!

 

 

Josiah Bartlett, while serving as governor of New Hampshire, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, calling for the people to:

“confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord” (1).

 

 

Samuel Chase, while serving as a circuit court judge in Pennsylvania, spoke to the defendant, John Fries, during his trial for treason, 1799-1800:

“I expect that you are a Christian; and as such I address you. Be assured my guilty and unhappy fellow-citizen, that without serious repentance of all your sins, you cannot expect happiness in the world to come; and to your repentance you must add faith and hope in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. These are the only terms on which pardon and forgiveness are promised” (2).

 

 

Samuel Huntington, while serving as governor of Connecticut, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, March 9, 1791, including these remarks:

It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3).

 

 

Richard Henry Lee, while serving as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, joined Samuel Adams and Daniel Roberdeau to recommend:

“Thursday, the 18th of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance” (4).

 

 

Philip Livingston, in his last will and testament, wrote:

“First, I do resign my soul to the great most mighty and most merciful God Who gave it, in hopes, through mercy alone by the merits of Jesus Christ, to have a joyful resurrection to life eternal, and my body I commit to the earth to be buried decently and without ostentation” (5). (Dated May 18, 1778, and on file at the Family History Center in Texas.)

 

 

Thomas McKean, while serving as a judge, presented the following in a public address given to the defendant who had just been sentenced to death:

“It behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds [Acts 8:22]; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins [1 Kings 8:50]; to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow—those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter [Ephesians 2:12]” (6).

 

 

George Read, known as “the Father of Delaware,” wrote “the first edition of her laws,” and the Constitution of the State. The requirements, stated in the Delaware Constitution, for holding office include:

“DELAWARE 1776. Article XXII. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I, ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration” (7).

 

 

Richard Stockton, from his last will and testament:

“I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian religion, such as the Being of God, the universal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the Person and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Savior, the necessity of the operations of the Divine Spirit, of Divine Faith, accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the universality of the divine Providence, but also . . . that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state; that all occasions of vice and immorality is injurious either immediately or consequentially, even in this life; that as Almighty God hath not been pleased in the Holy Scriptures to prescribe any precise mode in which He is to be publicly worshiped, all contention about it generally arises from want of knowledge or want of virtue” (8).

 

 

John Witherspoon, the only clergy among the signers, spoke the following in a sermon, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation through Christ, January 2, 1758:

“It is very evident that both the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New are at great pains to give us a view of the glory and dignity of the person of Christ. With what magnificent titles is he adorned! What glorious attributes are ascribed to him! All these conspire to teach us that he is truly and properly God – God over all, blessed forever” (9)!

 

 

Oliver Wolcott, in a letter to his daughter, Laura, April 10, 1776:

“Through various scenes of life, God has sustained me. May He ever be my unfailing friend; may His love cherish my soul; may my heart with gratitude acknowledge His goodness; and may my desires be to Him and to the remembrance of His name….May we then turn our eyes to the bright objects above, and may God give us strength to travel the upward road. May the Divine Redeemer conduct us to that seat of bliss which He himself has prepared for His friends; at the approach of which every sorrow shall vanish from the human heart and endless scenes of glory open upon the enraptured eye” (10).

 

Of course, not all founding fathers drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence.

The website, www.biography.com, lists eighteen men among the most influential of our founders (11):

  • John Hancock**
  • James Madison
  • John Adams*
  • Ben Franklin
  • George Washington**
  • Patrick Henry**
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Alexander Hamilton*
  • Thomas Paine
  • Samuel Adams**
  • Richard Henry Lee*
  • John Dickenson*
  • James Monroe
  • Roger Sherman*
  • Benjamin Rush*
  • George Mason*
  • John Marshall
  • John Jay*

 

The asterisks indicates those who included statements of faith in Jesus Christ in their writings. Two asterisks by a name indicates other posts on this blog that share their stories.

Count up the names with no asterisks: six.  Six who may have been Deists rather than Christians. That does not constitute “many.”

And why does it matter whether our founders were Christian and strived to live by Christian principles?

Perhaps Alexis de Tocqueville explained it best in his book, Democracy in America (1835):

 

(Alexis de Tocqueville)

 

Not until I went into the churches of America

and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness

did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

she will cease to be great.”

 

Therefore, we must beware of those who distort the facts of our Christian heritage and downplay the importance of Christian values.

We must be informed voices of Truth.

 

Notes:

  1. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  2. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N27848.0001.001/1:7?rgn=div1;view=fulltext , p. 203.
  3. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  4. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  5. Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, ed., The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012, p. 1612.
  6. William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847), Vol. II, p. 53. Quoted in The Founders’ Bible, 1733.
  7. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  8. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=78
  9. https://quotepark.com/authors/john-witherspoon/
  10. (from Letters of Delegates to Congress: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1978), Vol. 3, pp. 502-503. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  11. https://www.biography.com/people/groups/founding-fathers

 

Art credits:  http://www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.nyplgetarchive.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.nyplgetarchive.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.nypl.getarchive.net.; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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Some historians would have us believe most of our founding fathers were Deists, not Christians—that they believed in a distant God who created the universe but who does not intervene in human events.

Those historians are choosing to ignore the many sources that would indicate otherwise.

In honor of those who signed the Declaration of Independence 243 years ago today, and sacrificed much for our freedom, I present the following proofs of Christian faith. (This post is long; you have my permission to skim read!):

 

John Adams

  1. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813 John Adams wrote:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

 

Samuel Adams

  1. In his Last Will and Testament, attested December 9, 1790, Samuel Adams wrote:

“I…[rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.”

 

 

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, Josiah Bartlett called on the people of New Hampshire…

. . . “to confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord.”

 

Charles Carroll

  1. In a letter written to Charles W. Wharton, Esq. on September 27, 1825, Charles Carroll wrote:

“On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts.

 

Elbridge Gerry

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise on October 24, 1810, Elbridge Gerry called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that…

…”with one heart and voice we may prostrate ourselves at the throne of heavenly grace and present to our Great Benefactor sincere and unfeigned thanks for His infinite goodness and mercy towards us from our birth to the present moment for having above all things illuminated us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, presenting to our view the happy prospect of a blessed immortality.”

 

John Hancock

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving in 1791, John Hancock called on the entire state to pray…

…“that universal happiness may be established in the world [and] that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole earth be filled with His glory.”

 

John Hart

  1. In his last will and testament, John Hart wrote:

“Thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27]…principally I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner…to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God.”

 

Samuel Huntington

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer, and Humiliation on March 9, 1791, Samuel Huntington wrote:

“It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

Robert Treat Paine

  1. In The Papers of Robert Treat Paine (1992), editors Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson included Paine’s Confession of Faith from 1749:

“I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.”

 

 

Benjamin Rush

  1. In his autobiography, Benjamin Rush wrote:

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations! . . . 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 [Acts 22:16]. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! [Revelation 22:20].”

 

Roger Sherman

  1. In correspondence to Samuel Hopkins in October of 1790 (as cited in Correspondence between Roger Sherman and Samuel Hopkins by Charles Hamilton, 1889, p. 26) Roger Sherman wrote:

“True Christians are assured that no temptation (or trial) shall happen to them but what they shall be enabled to bear; and that the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for them.”

 

James Wilson

  1. From The Works of the Honorable James Wilson, edited by Bird Wilson, 1804, James Wilson wrote:

“Our all-gracious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler has been pleased to discover and enforce His laws by a revelation given to us immediately and directly from Himself. This revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures.”

 

John Witherspoon

  1. In a sermon titled, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ (January 2, 1758) John Witherspoon wrote:

“I shall now conclude my discourse by preaching this Savior to all who hear me, and entreating you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ; for “there is no salvation in any other” [Acts 4:12].”

____________________

 

These thirteen signers of the Declaration were obviously committed to Christian principles, based on their faith in a participatory God, who provides salvation to all who ask through his Son, Jesus.

Given more time and access to more resources, we’d surely find additional proofs for the Christian faith of other signers. It is verifiable that all of them were members of churches, many contributing significantly to their congregations with monetary support and service.

Would Deists consider it important to be contributing members of Christian churches?

We know this too: In the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the signers, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

I have to ask: Would the majority–if Deists–vote to include such a statement?

Seems more than unlikely.

 

Sources:

  1. The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012
  2. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  3. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2546951/posts
  4. www.libertyunderfire.org

 

Art credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; wikimedia.com (3); wikimedia.org; wikimedia.com; wikimedia.org (2); wikimedia.com; wikimedia.org (4); http://www.flickr.com.

 

 

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