This can very clearly be seen from the beginning
with Christopher Columbus, as his writings showed that he intended to bring the Gospel to
"It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his
hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from
here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it
with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the
inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me
with rays of marvelous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures..." (1)
"Therefore let the king and queen, the princes and their most fortunate kingdoms, and all other countries of Christendom give thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has bestowed upon us so great a victory and gift. Let religious processions be solemnized; let sacred festivals be given; let the churches be covered with festive garlands. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven, when he foresees coming to salvation so many souls of people hitherto lost." (2)
When the Pilgrims
considered the voyage to America, it was clear that they had firm convictions that it was for a specific purpose -- to advance the Christian faith.
After all, the very first words that a compact of the first free people (with God as their witness) to travel to the new nation were "In the name of God. Amen." They further went on to say in the Mayflower Compact:
"Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic..." (3)
William Bradford confirmed this sentiment:
"A great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping stones unto others for the performing of so great a work." (4)
Early Americans were intent on strengthening their Christian roots during the War for Indepedence, drafting of the Declration of Independence, and even with the conduct of their first leaders and Congress:
The Declaration of Independence states:
"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men
are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty,
and the Pursuit of Happiness...We, therefore, the representatives
of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled,
appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude
of our Intentions, do, in the Name and by the Authority of the
good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare,
That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free
and Independent States...And for the support of this Declaration,
with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,
we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and
our sacred Honor." (5)
A pastor of a Lutheran church near to the
Continental Army, Henry Muhlenberg, noted this regarding the
General of the Army, George Washington:
"His Excellency General Washington rode around among his
army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God,
to put away the wickedness that has set in and become so general,
and to practice the Christian virtues. From all appearances,
this gentleman does not belong to the so-called world of society,
for he respects God's Word, believes in the atonement through
Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. Therefore,
the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously, preserved
him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades,
fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in His
hand as a chosen vessel." (6)
Another clear example was actually on Independence Day, July 4, 1776, when Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams to chair the committee to propose the national seal, and despite the general belief today that the first two were the least religious, they proposed biblical imagery, particularly the "Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by Day, and a Pillar of Fire by night..." (7)
On October 11, 1782, Congress passed a resolution to make November 28, 1782 the first official Thanksgiving and make it a national holiday, proclaiming:
"It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf...Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness." (8)
At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, there were many instances that showed a conviction of those to exemplify a preemininent Christian basis to our young nation.
The Constitution of the United States provided that the President had ten days to review a
bill from Congress for him to determine passage, with the only day being excepted as Sunday. That day is resoundingly the adopted Sabbath of Christianity considering Jesus defeated death and returned to Earth on the third day, or Sunday. (9)
Furthmore, Benjamin Franklin appealed to those at the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787 saying, "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 superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity." Franklin also went on to appeal for prayer that same day, saying:
"I've 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 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 who 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 little partial local interests; our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a Reproach and Bye word down to future Ages." (10)
Our Christian Heritage needs
to be understood and ultimately revived, and it is up to us as Christians to undertake that effort.
The previous Great Awakenings in America were
begun by Christians, especially by pastors. It is time for all
of us, including and at the leading of our pastors, to begin
a process of reviving this nation into what it was created to
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then
will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will
heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14
If we are able to revive our true Providencial foundation, we will be
blessed once again as a nation.
George Mason long ago noted that "By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities." Thomas Jefferson also believed essentially the same, saying: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever." If we are ever to rescind the national calamities we have in America today, we must work to restore what made this nation great in the beginning -- our firm reliance on Providence.
God is clear how he prefers nations to conduct themselves:
is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to
"Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the
nation that keeps faith."
"Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go
out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations."
"For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to
know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for
just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them."
"Therefore say to them, 'This is the nation that has not
obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has
perished; it has vanished from their lips.'"
1. Columbus, Christopher. Book of Prophecies, 1492. Translated by
August J. Kling, who quoted these excerpts in an article in
The Presbyterian Layman, October, 1971.
2. Columbus, Christopher, Journal, 1492, quoted in Federer, United States Folder, Library of Classics.
3. The Mayflower Compact. November 11, 1620.
4. Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation. Wright and Potter
5. The Declaration of Independence. July 4, 1776.
6. Muhlenberg, Henry Melchior. Notebook of a Colonial Clergyman,
7. Library of Congress. General Collections. 1856.
8. Congressional Proclamation. October 11, 1782.
9. United States Constitution. Presentment Clause: Article 1, Section 7. September 17, 1787.
10. Franklin, Benjamin, Speech to the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787.