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Subject: A Review of The American Patriot’s Bible (The Word of God and the Shaping of America) edited by Richard E. Lee
American National Day of Prayer
(Thur., May 6, 2010)
(approx. 3635 words, 7 pp.)
The American Patriot’s Bible,
The Study Bible to end all Study Bibles for this hour in our nation’s history?
Patriots to History! This may be the spiritual battle to end all such battles on earth...
By mere chance, or God’s Providence, I came across this particular study Bible on how the Christian faith relates to the story of America. After having spent some good number of hours reading it, I have almost become totally, completely, and absolutely convinced that the survival of the Republic and perhaps even the survival of mankind on earth in good and desirable nations may depend on this study Bible, or most certainly the truths contained within it. How or why could I or anybody make such a wild and extravagant claim? This Bible gives the story of the all-important spiritual foundation and heritage of America, called by Lincoln "the world’s last best hope." Hence, if we fail, if we go down, everything, it would seem, is lost for mankind on earth... Is this so? Whether it is or isn’t, the possibility of such a failure at this point is too great to even contemplate...
The hour is getting late...
The hour is getting late, and the seriousness of the situation leaves little room for anything but the most committed of lives. When the story is told, when the record is written, each and every one of us will stand accountable in future generations... now and forevermore... for what we did in this very hour to stand in the gap when all seemed lost in the annals of all history. Look, a Gospel foundation was required the first time to make America happen, and a Gospel foundation was also required to make America prosper so greatly for so many generations, and certainly a Gospel foundation will be required a second time to make the American dream re-happen, and for America to so prosper again for generations to come.
This American Patriot’s Bible makes it quite clear this was the American Founders’ view, namely, the nation has a moral foundation which is only sustainable on a traditional religious foundation, and, further, this was a virtually universally held view in America throughout the 19th century, namely, America can only succeed and prosper to the degree we are a moral and (traditionally) religious people. The religious Liberal and atheist are often just in historical and philosophical denial about America’s historical past with their overt revisionist history of America and of mankind more generally. So, what is the story?
What is the story of America’s great spiritual Judeo-Christian heritage?
What is the story, the story of America’s great spiritual Judeo-Christian heritage to the core and very depth of our being? And what stands on line for the only hope of our future, and indeed the future of the whole of mankind on earth? It is the Gospel story and cosmology and its place in the just, prosperous and free Republic, as the American Founders so clearly understood and as is so well presented and unquestionably demonstrated in this outstanding study Bible, researched and detailed in ways almost to magnificent to imagine....
The emphasis of this Patriot’s Bible is not simple on the Gospel, as such, but the larger moral, spiritual, philosophical, social and political principles contained more generally in the Judeo-Christian heritage, which is based indisputably on the Bible, and how such principles were playing themselves out in the society and culture both politically and practically in America’s founding and in the subsequent generations. Again, this is extremely straightforward stuff unless you are in total irrational denial (as the Liberal or atheist often is).
In any case, I am running out of adjectives, descriptions, and superlatives, so I will let the American Patriot’s Bible speak for itself, and indeed for the countless figures cited who contributed to this drama and great accomplishment on the stage of world history, unprecedented by any nation in any time or any place...
George Washington’s Farewell Address and America’s Judeo-Christian heritage
It is my personal opinion that the best way to approach the whole question of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage is by quoting George Washington’s Farewell Address, one of the great founding documents of the nation by America’s greatest statesman. ("First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.")
Washington said in that Farewell Address, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of humans happiness-- the firmest props of the duties of men and nations.... let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." (p. 183)
John Adams has Washington’s view on morality, religion, and good government
John Adams, America’s second President, a clear American Founder, has Washington’s view on morality, religion, and good government as well. Adams said famously in a line often cited by historians "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (p.1334)
John Adams also said in a similar vein on religion, morality, and good government as well as liberty: "Statesmen... may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand... The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue." (p. 1368, italics added) And Adams adds that unless such virtue can be instilled in the people, one’s political hopes for "lasting liberty" are in vain... Hence, instilling morality and Christian religious principles (in a general sense) in the people was often seen to be the very purpose of education by the Founders and those who followed them, for the practical sake of the American Republic if nothing else. Horace Greeley, a leading 19th century journalist says bluntly almost the exact same thing as Adams had and as Washington before him, namely, "liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith." (p.236, italics added)
Christianity is not simply a religious exercise but practical instruction
Christianity was seen by the Founders not simply as a religious exercise or even simply a matter of salvation, but rather instruction in practical righteous and successful living, which is necessary for the good life of the individual as well as for the Republic to survive and thrive. Joseph Story one of America’s most famous and celebrated jurists wrote in an opinion as a member of the Supreme Court in 1844: "Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament... be read and taught as a divine revelation in college-- its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained, and its glorious principles of morality inculcated? ...Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament? Where are benevolence, the love of truth, sobriety, and industry, so powerfully and irresistibly inculcated as in the sacred volume?" (p. 1374)
Hence, the Bible was not seen as merely a religious book, but an instruction book in morality and true liberty, and as a central part of Western culture, heritage and even law. As Story also wrote at another time, "One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law... It still attaches to persons believing in [Christianity’s] divine authority the highest degree of competency as witnesses." (p. 1303)
James McHenry, American Founder, on the Bible, public virtue & good government
James McHenry, an American Founder, and signer of the Constitution, no less, had similar views on the value of the Bible for public virtue and good government: "...public utility pleads most forcibly for their 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." (p. 1300, italics added)
Over and over it was the practical applications of the truths and principles of Christianity and the Bible that so interested the Founders, more than simply the "religious" applications, as such, in, say, worship of God, which is more a specific church activity, though public prayer was a virtual given of the time.
Biblical principles of liberty and justice gave rise to political philosophical thinking
It is the Biblical principles of liberty and justice that gave rise to the political philosophical thinking of the Founders (as expressed in say the overtly Christian John Locke and William Blackstone, British, of course). For example, Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, no less, and he wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on the relationship of Christianity to good government: "I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of republicanism... many of its precepts have for their objects republican liberty and equality as well as simplicity, integrity, and economy in government."
It is almost inconceivable that someone would speak like this today, but Rush goes on to say that Christianity holds the key to overturning all the world’s political ills!!! Rush continues, "It is only necessary for republicanism to ally itself to the Christian religion to overturn all the corrupted political and religious institutions in the world." (p. 1417) It is worth noting the republican French Revolution of 1789 did not do this and failed miserably, and neither did its child the communist Russian Revolution of 1917 and it failed miserably as well.
We today simply do not think in these terms that Bible Christianity can solve all the world’s religious and political problems. Is this true? I think so for a host of philosophical, moral and spiritual reasons, but that is not the point here. The point here is the Founders thought it, while we today think Bible Christianity is not only not necessary for good government but false and irrelevant, at best, and downright detrimental at worst. Such is the fall of the thinking in our great nation over the past few generations.
Noah Webster on Bible Christianity, Education, Government, Rights and Liberty...
The practical fact is the Bible teaches basic moral precepts, and these work for the good of the individual and of the society and republic, and the Bible teaches these moral precepts and principles better than any other work of literature, especially as applied to the individual life, but the impact on government is equally great. As this Bible’s editor Richard Lee states, over and over, the Founders emphasize the role and necessity of a morally virtuous people for the strength a free republic, and the role and necessity of "religion" which undergirds "morality."
From the Mayflower Compact’s pledging to enact "just and equal Laws" for "the Glory of God and Advancement of the Christian Faith" to Washington’s Farewell Address to countless other Founding Fathers and those who followed them this thinking on morality, religion, and government was commonplace, a virtual given, so much so that Noah Webster (often called "The Father of American Education") writes in 1836 of the role and importance of Christianity to education and good government: "... the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people." (p. I-24, italics added, knocks your socks off?)
Again, we, today, do not think in these terms (of rights, freedom, Christian truths and principles, and good government), of course, so categorically as Noah Webster or otherwise, but I think maybe that is the point. We have, generally, totally lost the connection between one’s religion, whatever it may be or even not be, and the system of government one’s religion tends to produce.
America and a needed underlying Christian moral and religious base
The Founders and those who followed them were generally (not always of course) deeply Christian through and through, but they had no real desire to establish a state Church, as such, but they did see the nation they were establishing with its rights and liberties to be the result of their strong Christian views. The Liberal and atheist often act as if the non-Christians prevailed over the Christians at the founding, and, hence, we separated the institution of the church from the institution of the state, and so formed a purely secular society and such was supposedly their intention. This is revisionist thinking if not outright revisionist history of the first order.
The political system the Founders formed was a result of their Christian views. They were very clear about this. And, further as numerous of these quotes show, the Founders thought the system of government they were establishing could not survive without an underlying Christian moral and religious base (for better or worse, you might say). We today, do not hold to a needed Christian principle base, of course, but even worse we do not teach the children that the Founders thought such a thing was not just important but actually crucial!
The modern politically correct myth...
The modern politically correct myth is America was founded primarily by Deists and atheists. However, in truth, the role of Deism and atheism in America’s founding was minor, indeed insignificant. Jefferson and Franklin often cited by non-Christians as two of the least Christian Founders believed in the power of prayer (as in Franklin’s call for it at the Constitutional Convention) and in the sovereignty and judgment of God in history as Jefferson’s fear that God would judge America for slavery. Neither of these views can be squared with atheism or Deism; in fact both views stand four-square against atheism and Deism. But let not the revisionists be deterred?
Some of the most Christian words ever spoken outside of Sacred Scripture...
I find Benjamin Franklin’s short speech at the Constitutional Convention to be one of the most shocking and profound things ever said in the history of mankind, especially in the actual historical context of the Constitutional Convention where things had reached an impasse, with heated disputes between large and small states and other issues. At this point in that summer of 1787 in Philadelphia Franklin arose and addressed Washington and the Convention:
"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 possible that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘unless the Lord builds the house, 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: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.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." (p. 690)
In my opinion, these words are not just "Christian," but some of the most Christian words ever spoken outside of Sacred Scripture. But let not the revisionists be deterred?
Jefferson in fear and trembling of the Judgment of God...
Jefferson said of what is saw to be the possible horrific pending Judgment of God on America, which in fact did come on the South with the Civil War: "God who gave us life gave us liberty... Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever." (p. I-36) A Deist, of course, cannot write any of this! That is the whole point of Deism! But let not the revisionists be deterred?
Clearly Jefferson thought God was a real actor in history and in particular in the cause of liberty and justice. Again, nothing can be more Biblical or Christian than this Judeo-Christian principle. (Just ask long-gone ancient Israel!) There is an actual Creator God, He is sovereign in history, and He is most concerned with liberty, justice, and righteousness. Outside of Bible Christianity no other religion besides conservative Judaism holds this viewpoint (to my knowledge anyway).
Daniel Webster’s fear of God’s Judgment echoes Jefferson’s
The point here is significant. Not only do religion and morality lay the foundation for a good, righteous and just nation of a free people, but more than this, forsaking God and morality can bring the terrible Judgment of God on a nation just as the supposed "Deist" Jefferson feared, and in fact it is our clear Judeo-Christian heritage which teaches this. The larger problem we face is not simply in understanding the important even necessary role of general Christian religion and morality in a free, just and prosperous society but rather what happens to freedom and good government when this religious principle and morality are abandoned?
Daniel Webster (1782-1852), a leading 19th American statesman, had an ominous warning for America similar to Jefferson’s. He said, "If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion, if we and they shall live always in the fear of God, and shall respect His commandments, if we and they shall maintain just moral sentiments and conscientious convictions of duty as shall control the heart and life, we have he highest hopes of future fortunes of our country... But if we and our posterity reject religious institutions and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity." (p. 1429)
The quality of elected men not "squandering public revenues" on interest groups
Noah Webster (the educator) holds it is the quality of the men we elect that can and will determine the course of the nation. He said, "...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; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good, so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded." (p. 316) Washington even held oaths before God for public officials puts in their minds that there is an ultimate accountability for public service, which is true if you believe in an actual judging God.
But the larger point is we do not wanted "squandered" public revenues or laws made "not for the public good" or for "selfish or local purposes" whether leaders are God fearing or otherwise, but what is one of the big problems we have today? Special interest politics that are not concerned about the overall good of the country, which is the very thing the Founders were so concerned we remain true to in a just and desirable fashion, and they felt this would most likely indeed only happen through traditional religion and morality of the people. And classically humanistic politics are virtually defined by interest politics without regard for higher and very real standards of justice, rights, liberty, and righteous from God, no less.
This American Patriot’s Bible makes a perfect "family Bible"...
This American Patriot’s Bible makes a perfect "family Bible" to pass down to succeeding generations. It is beautifully illustrated, and has numerous pages for recording births, deaths, marriages, family tree, and so forth. It is a wonderful Bible for teaching as well as for family devotionals, and it is so put together that it is even a perfect coffee table book, fascinating just to page through and read all of the various entries and quotes of famous Americans to this very day.
This American Patriot’s Bible asserts America can only succeed and prosper as a just and free nation to the degree we are a moral and (traditionally) religious people, and this Bible makes it abundantly clear this was the American Founders’ view, and, further, it was a virtually universally-held view throughout the 19th century, and a view held by countless Americans and most national leaders throughout the 20th century, and many to this very day, The National Day of Prayer, May 6, 2010. May we turn to God from all false, unholy, and wicked ways and seek His ways with our whole heart and may He protect and bless this land with His mighty strength and pure goodness.