America’s Founding Fathers and the Bible

April 20, 2016 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org)

americas_founding_fathers
By no means were all Americans in the 18th century Bible-believing Christians. Even among the Founding Fathers, some prominent figures were rationalists who rejected the Bible’s divine inspiration and Christ’s virgin birth, miracles, and sacrificial atonement. Chief among these were Jefferson and Franklin. Thomas Jefferson made his own “Bible” by cutting out the miraculous, including Christ’s resurrection. And that fascinating and most clever American Benjamin Franklin was a member of France’s Lodge of the Nine Sisters, among the members of which were “the freest-thinkers in the realm.” Franklin was a great fan of the blasphemous and morally filthy French skeptic Voltaire. Franklin sought Voltaire’s blessing on his grandson and participated enthusiastically in a eulogy following Voltaire’s death, which was held in a hall dressed in black and lit by candles. Franklin took his Masonic crown and laid it at the foot of a large painting of Voltaire (H.W. Brands, The First American, p. 565)

From its inception in the 18th century, America was
not a Bible nation in any consistent manner, but it was a nation powerfully influenced by the Bible, more than any nation in history apart from Israel herself.

America’s most popular book, by far, was the Bible.

Noah Webster, author of
The American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), observed: “Our liberty, growth and prosperity was the result of a Biblical philosophy of life. Our continued freedom and success is dependent on our educating the youth of America in the principles of Christianity” (Leon Stevens, One Nation Under God, p. 102).

A large number of America’s Founding Fathers quoted the Bible and credited it for the success of the nation. A large number of them glorified Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and professed personal faith in His atonement for their eternal salvation.

Following are a few statements about the Bible by America’s Founding Fathers:

These quotes could be multiplied. They are gathered from many sources, such as The United States, Law, Government, Religion, Christianity, and Illegalities by Barak Josiah, The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations edited by James Hutson, and America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations edited by William Federer.

Many of America’s founders were members of and supporters of the American Bible Society, which was founded in 1816. The first president of the Society, Elias Boudinot, had been President of the Continental Congress during the War of Independence. The second president of the Bible Society, John Jay, was the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

JOHN ADAMS (1735-1826), second President of the United States. “I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world” (Works, Vol. X, p. 85, letter written to Thomas Jefferson).

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS (1767-1848), sixth President of the United States. In 1811, Adams wrote the following to his son: “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 afterwards the history of one peculiar nation, certainly the most extraordinary nation that has ever appeared upon the earth” (Letter from John Quincy Adams to George Adams, Sept. 1 and 8, 1811).

PATRICK HENRY (1736-1799), officer in the Continental Army, Governor of Virginia. “The Bible ... is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed” (Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, William Wirt, 1818, p. 402).

JOHN JAY (1745-1829), first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Governor of New York. In 1784, he wrote the following to his eldest son, Peter: “Your aunt tells me that you love your books, and that you daily read in the Bible and have learned by heart some Hymns in the book I sent you. These accounts give me great pleasure, and I love you for being such a good boy. The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts” (The Winning of the Peace, unpublished papers of John Jay, edited by Richard Morris, Vol. II, p. 709).

ELIAS BOUDINOT (1740-1821), President of the Continental Congress, framer of the Bill of Rights. “For nearly half a century have I anxiously and critically studied that invaluable treasure [the Bible]; and I still scarcely ever take it up that I do not find something new--that I do not receive some valuable addition to my stock of knowledge or perceive some instructive fact never observed before. In short, were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the inquiring mind, I should repeat, it is the Bible; and should you renew the inquiry for the best philosophy or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the Alpha and Omega of knowledge” (The Age of Revelation, or the Age of Reason Shown to Be an Age of Infidelity, 1801, p. xv, from the “Dedication: Letter to his daughter Susan Bradford”).

BENJAMIN RUSH (1746-1813), signer of the Declaration of Independence, a founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society. “By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. ... It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published” (Letters of Benjamin Rush, 1951, Vol. I, p. 475). “[T]he only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible” (Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 1798, p. 112). “The Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world” (Essays, 1798, p. 93).

ROBERT TREAT PAINE (1731-1814), signer of the Declaration of Independence, Attorney General of Massachusetts. “I believe the Bible to be the written word of God and to contain in it the whole rule of faith and manners” (The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, Vol. I, p. 49).

DANIEL WEBSTER (1782-1852), U.S. Secretary of State (cousin of Noah Webster): “... to the free and universal reading of the Bible ... men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty” (Address delivered at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1843).

NOAH WEBSTER (1758-1843), judge, legislator, educator, author of the American Dictionary of the English Language. “The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. ... All the ... evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible” (Webster, History of the United States, 1832, “Advice to the Young, p. 339). “... our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion” (History of the United States, 1832, p. 6). “The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society--the best book for regulating the temporal concerns of men” (The Holy Bible ... with Amendments of the Language, 1833, p. v).

ROGER SHERMAN (1721-1793), signer of the Declaration of Independence, framer of the Bill of Rights. “The volume which he consulted more than any other was the Bible. It was his custom, at the commencement of every session of Congress, to purchase a copy of the Scriptures, to peruse it daily, and to present it to one of his children on his return” (The Globe, Washington D.C., Aug. 15, 1837).

JAMES MCHENRY (1753-1816), signer of the U.S. Constitution, founder and president of the Baltimore Bible Society. “All Christians allow that the Old and New Testaments taken together, are the only books in the world which clearly reveal the nature of God, contain a perfect law for our government, propose the most powerful persuasions to obey this law, and furnish the best motives for patience and resignation, under every circumstance and vicissitude of life. Even those writers who deny their divinity, have yet acknowledged that the matters contained in them are, at least, calculated to make mankind wiser and better. These surprising and salutary effects the scriptures have unequivocally produced, and whenever they are read and attended to, will continue to produce. Facts so fully ascertained and so clearly demonstrating the great importance of circulating the sacred writings have (within these few years past) called the attention of men more particularly to this subject, and given rise to the establishment of Societies whose object is to encourage their circulation. ... public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. Without the Bible, in vain do we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. ... Bibles are strong protections. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience” (One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1921, pp. 13, 14).

FISHER AMES (1758-1808), judge, representative to the Federal Congress, author of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “We are spending less time in the classroom on the Bible, which should be the principal text in our schools” (Palladium magazine, Sept. 20, 1789).

It must be understood that these were very educated men who were familiar with the best literature of world history, including that of the Greeks, the Romans, the English, the French, and the Germans.

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- The name “Way of Life” is from Proverbs 6:23: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” The biblical instruction that molds men to God’s will requires reproof. It is not strictly positive. It does not focus on man’s “self-esteem.” It does not avoid controversial or unpopular subjects. It warns as well as comforts. It deals with sin and false teaching in a plain manner. It is reproves, rebukes, exhorts with all longsuffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). This is what we seek to do through Way of Life Literature. The Way of Life preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. A mail stop is maintained in Port Huron, Michigan.

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