Question: has the United States Congress ever supported biblical religion to such an extent that Congress would commission and approve a special printing of Bibles? Read on!
Our lives are filled with symbols. Our family once lived in greater Philadelphia, and both of our children were born there. At one time I had a paperweight with miniature replicas of the Liberty Bell (representing freedom), Constitution Hall (representing law), and the Betsy Ross House (representing loyalty). On the bottom of the paperweight was another symbol, a label that read, “MADE IN CHINA!”
Today an increasingly secular society refers to those who believe the Bible as the “Religious Right.” BUT WE HAVE NOT MOVED! The evidence of America’s godly heritage is all around us.
In fact, on the Liberty Bell itself are these words taken from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land.” Our nation’s founding fathers quoted the Bible freely and frequently. There is a replica of the Liberty Bell in every one of our nation’s fifty state capitals.
You can hear it in our songs:
Katharine Lee Bates wrote: “America! America! God shed His grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”
And, though you may never have heard it, this is the last stanza of our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner:”
“Blessed with victory and peace, may this Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just; And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’ And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
You can see it on our money:
“Every coin minted in the United States bears, along with a bust of a past hero, these words: LIBERTY — IN GOD WE TRUST. It was not lightly that our forefathers chose these inseparable words, for they knew the tremendous cost and sacrifice that had been paid to secure our freedom. In gratitude, they continually acknowledged that God had made and preserved our nation. They were confident that God was blessing their endeavors because they acknowledged Him and sought His aid in all their doings. They warned future generations that the day God was not earnestly revered in America, she would become a byword among nations (source unknown).”
In 1776, our forefathers not only declared their independence from an earthly power; they also declared their dependence upon Almighty God. The closing words of the Declaration of Independence state: “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
They sought freedom, not from God, but freedom under God. Their ideal was freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. And they were willing to pay the ultimate price for it.
Speaking of this freedom, Thomas Payne wrote in 1776: “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
The American system was to be the political expression of Christian ideas. Our forefathers constantly reaffirmed the need and role of God in the United States government.
You can hear it from the lips of early American leaders and Presidents:
Noah Webster: Noah Webster Jr. (1758-1843) was an American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English-language spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and author. He has been called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education”. His “Blue-backed Speller” books taught five generations of American children how to spell and read.
Noah Webster said, “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all 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.”
His words now appear prophetic. Because God and the Bible have been increasingly abandoned by our culture, we are now seeing moral chaos and collapse.
Benjamin Franklin: Hear these words which he spoke in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention. When the delegates met with serious disagreements with each other, and they were about to adjourn in confusion, the eighty-one-year-old Franklin rose and said:
“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a super-intending Providence in our favor … Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? 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 man. 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 the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this … I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning.”
Those daily prayers continue to be offered even at the present time in all government assemblies.
George Washington – Inaugural Address
Hear George Washington, in his inaugural address to Congress: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency … We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven cannot be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained.”
George Washington – First Thanksgiving Proclamation
Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, which reads: “Whereas 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 implore His protection and favor …” It goes on to call the nation to thankfulness to Almighty God.
George Washington – Psalm 16:1 – In the U.S. Capitol
A reminder of Washington’s faith is found today in the U.S. Capitol building. In the Capitol is a small room set aside for the private prayer and meditation of members of Congress. The room’s focal point is a stained-glass window showing George Washington kneeling in prayer. Behind him are etched these words from Psalm 16:1: “Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust.”
Daniel Webster: Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was an American lawyer and statesman who represented New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress. He served as the U.S. Secretary of State under three Presidents: William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore. In 1851 Webster wrote: “Let the religious element in man’s nature be neglected, let him be influenced by no higher motives than self-interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority, and he becomes the creature of selfish passion or blind fanaticism. On the other hand, the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness … inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric, at the same time that it conducts the human soul upward to the Author of its being.”
Daniel Webster again: “Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits.”
Note that. According to Webster, the security of a government depends upon moral habits, and moral habits cannot be sustained by any other foundation than religious principle. Religious principle first, which produces moral habits, which then supports the security of both government and people.
Abraham Lincoln – The Duty of Nations
Abraham Lincoln: “It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
Abraham Lincoln – The Bible
Lincoln again, regarding the Bible: “All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated through this Book; but for the Book we could not know right from wrong. All the things desirable to man are contained in it.”
Abraham Lincoln – Psalm 19:9 – The Lincoln Memorial
Have you ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington? I have. It is massive and impressive. Engraved in the walls are words spoken by Lincoln himself which represent his view. Things like this: “And this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” At the opposite end, on the north wall, his Second Inaugural Address alludes to “God,” the “Bible,” “providence,” “the Almighty,” and “divine attributes.”
It then continues: “As was said 3000 years ago, so it still must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (from Psalm 19:9).’”
Calvin Coolidge: “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.”
Andrew Jackson: “Go to the Scriptures … the joyful promises it contains will be a balsam to all your troubles.”
Woodrow Wilson: “… the Bible … is the one supreme source of revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God and spiritual nature and need of men. It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation.”
Thomas Jefferson: These words of his are etched in stone at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington: “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.”
Obviously, Jefferson believed that the nation should maintain the belief that all its liberties came from God. He was saying that only this belief would keep these God-given liberties secure.
That fact refutes a common misunderstanding about Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement about the “separation of church and state.” Jefferson intended, not to keep God out of government, but to keep the government from sticking its nose into religion. This idea was put forward to protect the church from the government, not to protect the government or the nations from the church.
It was our fathers’ concern that the government not force any one denomination on anyone. The nation was not to show favor to any one group over another, as long as these groups all professed to follow Jesus Christ. It was their intent instead that, with a nation based on faith in God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, each individual would be free to worship and serve according to his own beliefs and conscience.
You can read it in our nation’s early public-school textbooks:
Early textbooks used in our nation’s public schools were basically all built on Scripture. Verses from the Bible were used for memory work and even for practicing the letters of the alphabet. The Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments were recited, and Bible study was a regular element in the classroom. If you were to read some of the material, you would think it was taken straight from a Sunday School class. By the way, the main problems the teachers had then were not with children handling guns and knives and drugs; they were with children chewing gum and forgetting to whisper in the halls.
You can hear it from the mouths of foreigners:
More than 100 years after Webster, Charles Malik, one-time Ambassador to the United States from Lebanon, put it this way: “The good (in the United States) would never have come into being without the blessing and the power of Jesus Christ … I know how embarrassing this matter is to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and cynics: but, whatever these honored men think, the irrefutable truth is that the soul of America is at its best and highest, Christian.”
You can even read it from the United States Supreme Court:
All of us are familiar with modern Supreme Court decisions banning school prayer, authorizing abortion, redefining marriage and gender, and increasingly limiting or even denying our free speech rights as Christians.
But notice this lesser-known Supreme Court Decision from 1892.
“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 religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation … we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth … These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” Supreme Court Decision, 1892. Church of the Holy Trinity V. United States.
Would you believe this … Inside the Supreme Court building today, above the head of the Chief Justice, are the Ten Commandments, with the great American eagle protecting them. In a marble sculpture group on the east front of the building, Moses himself is seen, holding the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments written on them in Hebrew! That alone should tell us that the Supreme Court was originally instituted to operate only within the parameters and limitations imposed by Scripture.
There was the assumption and consensus that the government was not to issue judgment in areas where God had already done so in Scripture. For example, divorce and remarriage. On one occasion, the Supreme Court would not even put forth an opinion, because it was seen as settled by the Bible.
The Supreme Court today, the very branch of our US government which ruled against prayers at a high school football game opens every session with the words, “God save the United States and this honorable court.” They do this publicly, not privately.
You can see it in our early documents such as our state charters:
The very purpose of the Pilgrims in 1620 was to establish a government based on the Bible. The New England Charter, signed by King James I, states as the goal: “… to advance the enlargement of Christian religion, to the glory of God Almighty …”
The Rhode Island Charter of 1683 begins: “We submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given us in His Holy Word.”
Notice that our fathers saw this new society, not as a democracy based on the majority vote and the changing whims of sinful human beings, but as a republic to be governed by the absolute laws given in the Bible.
You can read it in stone in our government buildings:
A portrait of Moses with the Ten Commandments hangs above the Speaker’s chair in the United States Congress.
The Library of Congress (another U.S. government institution) has statues of the apostle Paul and Moses, and it has large inscriptions of Micah 6:8 and Psalm 19:1 prominently displayed. Micah 6:8 – He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
The Lincoln Memorial (US government property) has chiseled on it, “The judgments of the Lord are righteous,” quoting Ps 19:8.
You can read it at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to a soldier “Known but to God.”
* There is a prayer room in Congress.
* The United States Constitution refers to Jesus, stating the Constitution was signed in 1787 “in the year of our Lord.”
You can see it in the early colleges our fathers established:
It may surprise many people to realize that almost every Ivy League school was established primarily to train ministers of the gospel — and to evangelize the Atlantic seaboard.
Harvard, founded in 1638. From Harvard’s “Rules and Precepts” adopted in 1646: “Every one shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life. Seeing the Lord giveth wisdom, every one shall seriously by prayer in secret seek wisdom of Him. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that they be ready to give an account of their proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of languages and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths …”
In fact, 52% of Harvard’s graduates in the 17th century became ministers!
Similarly, Yale, 1701. Princeton, 1746. Dartmouth, 1754. Columbia University. William and Mary. And many others, including Vanderbilt University in my hometown.
And there’s more, too much to tell.
Remember the question I asked about Congress having Bibles printed? Here’s the answer!
“When America Cried for Bibles” — Because of the American Revolution, England stopped supplying Bibles to America. Patrick Allison, chaplain of Congress, placed before that body in 1777 a petition urging immediate relief. A special committee considered the problem and reported: “… that the use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great that your committee refer the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, the Committee recommend that Congress will order the Committee of Congress to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different parts of the States of the Union. Whereupon it was resolved accordingly to direct said Committee to import 20,000 copies of the Bible.” In 1780 the need arose once more. Robert Aitken, who had set up in Philadelphia as a bookseller and publisher of The Pennsylvania Magazine, saw the need and petitioned Congress. In response, Congress actually commissioned and approved a special printing of Bibles!
The information in the post was collected from multiple sources and edited by Cory Collins.