Was America founded as a Christian nation?

Was America founded as a Christian nation?

Which came first, the constitution or states? The states created the constitution as an administrative tool to work out the difference between the states. The states gave a limited amount of authority to the federal government. The real power was in the states and people. A similar question, which came first the people or did the state? As a limited administrative tool, the federal government and “Roberts Rules of Order” would not need to be declared Christian.

The states in early America were essentially nation-states. The states entered into the contract with full knowledge and assurance that they could withdraw from the contract. Moreover, as late as the time of the “War of Northern Aggression,” General Lee, when offered the command of the Union Army, said no, and that his loyalties were with Virginia, which supports the idea that the real power was the states.  

The debates between the founders, much like the debates at the Constitution Convention, were similar. It would have not even entered their minds, much like the framing of the “Bill of Rights.” Some thought it unnecessary to add the “Bill of Rights” since it was self-evident. The thought-forms of the day were thoroughly Christian. When God was mentioned, it was self-evident that the God of the Bible was being referenced.   

The 1790 naturalization law recognized a framework for becoming a citizen, and it did not implement a standard oath for the country, leaving the naturalization procedure wide-ranging from state to state for more than 100 years. The oath that is taken today did not come into existence until the 1950s.

As seen from historical, legal, and the views of Presidents, the modern view of the nation and was referred to as Christian.           

The 17th century was the nation’s actual founding of the nation, and Christianity was born out in the colonial charters. For example:

Nine of the 13 colonies had established churches, and all required officeholders to be Christians—or, in some cases, Protestants.

The First Charter of Virginia:

“We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God.…”

Instructions for the Virginia Colony (1606)

“Lastly and chiefly the way to prosper and achieve good success is to make yourselves all of one mind for the good of your country and your own, and to serve and fear God the Giver of all Goodness, for every plantation which our Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted out.”

John Hancock, Governor of Massachusetts, is another example of Christianity in the colonies:

1.      “He also called on the State of Massachusetts to pray in 1791 . . .

2.      that all nations may bow to the scepter of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that the whole earth may be filled with his glory.

3.      that the spiritual kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be continually increasing until the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.

4.      to confess their sins and to implore forgiveness of God through the merits of the Savior of the World.

5.      to cause the benign religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the inhabitants of the earth.

6.      to confess their sins before God and implore His forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

7.      that He would finally overrule all events to the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom and the establishment of universal peace and good will among men.

8.      that the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be established in peace and righteousness among all the nations of the earth.

9.      that with true contrition of heart we may confess our sins, resolve to forsake them, and implore the Divine forgiveness, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Savior. . ..  And finally, to overrule all the commotions in the world to the spreading the true religion of our Lord Jesus Christ in its purity and power among all the people of the earth.”

Other interesting tidbits:

·         King George himself reportedly referred to the War for Independence as “a Presbyterian Rebellion.”

·         British Major Harry Rooke was principally correct when he confiscated a presumably Calvinist book from an American prisoner and remarked that “[i]t is your G-d Damned Religion of this Country that ruins the Country; Damn your religion.” Douglass Adair and John A. Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver’s Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), p. 41; Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 173; John Leach, “A Journal Kept by John Leach, During His Confinement by the British, In Boston Gaol, in 1775,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol.19 (1865), p. 256.

Legal Opinions:

“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is their duty – as well as privilege and interest – of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” – John Jay, First Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” – John Jay.

“I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law … There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying its foundations.” – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Harvard Speech, 1829

“Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian… This is a Christian nation.” – United States Supreme Court, Church of the Holy Trinity v. the United States, 1892

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent a national ecclesiastical establishment which should give a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.” – Joseph Story appointed to the court by James Madison.

Is the United States a Christian nation?

The United States has the largest Christian population globally and, more specifically, the largest Protestant population in the world, with nearly 230 to 250 million Christians and, as of 2019, over 150 million people affiliated with Protestant churches. So, in a qualified way, yes.

 James Madison (Architect of the U.S. Constitution & Co-Author of the Federalist Papers)

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” – James Madison.

Congress, U.S. House Judiciary Committee, 1854

“Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle… In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity… That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.”

“The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Congressional record 1854

John Adams:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” – John Adams Treaty of Tripoli.

Did Adams write this? If so, what did Adams mean? How did he understand “Founded on the Christian religion” the same as one might today?

The phrase from article 11 was added in the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) by the negotiating Ambassador, hoping it would placate the Muslims when they read it in the Treaty. The negotiators wrote it and, Adams signed it, so yes, it was like he signed.

However:

·         A new Treaty was eventually negotiated in 1805. The second Treaty did not repeat Article 11. The renewed Treaty takes precedence over the early Treaty.

·         Therefore, Adam’s above quote should no longer be used as evidence that the country was not founded as a Christian nation.

What was the thinking on this wording, and how it might be understood:

The wording “founded on the Christian religion” may have meant that the government was an agent of the church, which was not accurate.

Nearly every nation in Europe was “founded on some version of the Christian religion,” Italy and France on Catholicism, the Germanic states on Lutheranism. However, in America, there was no national state “establishment of religion.”

The founders were well aware of what it was like under a state church. Puritans and Presbyterians experienced persecution at the hands of state churches in England, Scotland, and the Netherlands.

Adam’s son had this to say:

“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.” – John Quincy Adams

The Treaty of Paris of 1783 formally created and established the USA as a sovereign nation, and that was negotiated and signed by Adams, Franklin, and Jay, that begins with:

In the Name of the most Holy & undivided Trinity.

What happened to Adams? He signed this.

Other sayings by Adams:

“I have examined all, as well as my narrow sphere, my straitened means, and my busy life would allow me; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the world.” – John Adams

“The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.” – John Adams

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” – John Adams

“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.

The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . .. There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation.

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. . .. What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be! “I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.” – John Adams

Adams’ son:

“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 Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before.” – John Quincy Adams July 4th, 1837

“I speak as a man of the world to men of the world; and I say to you, Search the Scriptures! The Bible is the book of all others, to be read at all ages, and in all conditions of human life; not to be read in small portions of one or two chapters every day, and never to be intermitted, unless by some overruling necessity.” – John Quincy Adams

“The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” – John Quincy Adams

“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.” – John Quincy Adams

In 1832, Noah Webster published his History of the United States, in which he wrote:

“The brief exposition of the constitution of the United States, will unfold to young persons the principles of republican government; and it is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.” – Noah Webster

“The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government.” – Noah Webster

“The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all of our civil constitutions and laws…. all the miseries and 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.” – Noah Webster

“When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God. The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty.” – Noah Webster

Congress printed a Bible for America and said:

“The United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States … a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools.” – United States Congress 1782

Other quotes. What do they mean?

“I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.” – Benjamin Rush Signer of the Declaration 

“The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests.” – American president Andrew Jackson

“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.” – Harry S. Truman

“This is a Christian nation.” – Harry Truman, President

“The United States is founded on the principles of Christianity.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, President

Founding Father, George Washington:

“My ears hear with pleasure the other matters you mention. Congress will be glad to hear them too. You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to lose it.” – George Washington, speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, May 12, 1779.

“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.” – George Washington 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

“To our constant prayers for the welfare of our country, and of the whole human race, we shall esteem it our duty and happiness to unite our most earnest endeavors to promote the pure and undented religion of Christ; for as this secures eternal felicity to men in a future State, so we are persuaded that … where righteousness prevails among individuals the Nation will be great and happy. Thus, while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.” – George Washington to the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in North America, November 19, 1789

Thomas Jefferson:

“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.” – Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Memorial

“The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man” – Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Memorial

John Witherspoon:

SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION; PRESIDENT OF PRINCETON

“If you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ – if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness – you must forever perish.” – John Witherspoon

“He is the best friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.” – John Witherspoon

Note:

The official name of The Pledge of Allegiance was adopted in 1945. The most recent alteration of its wording came on Flag Day (June 14) in 1954, when the words “under God” were added.

Reformed leaders such as John Knox, George Buchanan, and Samuel Rutherford of Scotland, Stephanus Junius Brutus and Theodore Beza of France, and Christopher Goodman and John Ponet of England argued that inferior magistrates must resist unjust rulers and even permitted or required citizens to do so.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com

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