Of the three this perhaps will be the most controversial and last installment of my series on America's Christian Foundations. We saw in part one that this country was founded by Christians. That they in felling persecution in Europe came here for freedom and as the Mayflower Compact and other documents support to further the kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We in part two saw how our educational system was deeply rooted in the teaching of religion from the earliest first book "The New England Primer" to the mottos and precepts of our early higher institutions of learning. The reasons for this is that the majority of our people and the founders understood in their minds that a virtuous and moral people would be the necessary ground work the necessary foundation for a prosperous country. They understood that the government and religion need to be enemies but could work together in harmony for freedom and liberty.
One of the most quoted founders is the man Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was a lawyer and wordsmith he chose his words very carefully and when he wrote he wrote with authority and elegance. His crowing achievement being the Declaration and even though as history shows he was not a proponent of many forms of Christianity many claim he was a Deist, however his word still had a meaning that is rooted in religious founding of this nation. "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" Endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights not given to us by man or by and government but the one who created us. These are not rights than can or should be granted to us by the state, and cannot in a reasonable world be taken away by the state. Buy the power of the Creator the state is limited in respect to these God given inalienable rights. Yet we can see in today's world that state has in many cases over stepped its sphere of influence and has, does and will impinge upon these rights.
The Declaration goes on to state “…and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Natures God entitles them...” Jefferson when he uses the term Laws of Nature is very aware of what he is putting to words. It is not in any sense referring to what we would in modern times consider the Laws of Nature. It has a far deeper meaning that appears on the surface. Sir Edward Cook a century before hand defined the Laws of Nature as “The law of nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction…the moral law called also the law of nature” Jefferson being a lawyer would have been fully aware of this interpretation. Also being a lawyer of that time period he would have studied what every lawyer of that time studied and that is William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the laws of England” every law student studied under the direction of these books. Blackstone commented on the law of nature as “…as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything it is necessary that he should , in all points conform to his Makers will. This will of the Maker is called the law of nature…This law of nature… dictated by God himself is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding across all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority…from the original” Jefferson knew the meaning fo the words he used irrelevant of what he is purposed to have believed about God or Christianity. Blackstone went onto say “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say no human laws should be suffered to contradict these” The lawyers and people who wrote the Constitution of the United States were firmly aware of these teachings and although the Constitution is a secular document that does not contain the word God was greatly influenced by this same thinking. James Wilson a US Supreme Court Justice and signer of the Constitution said this. “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Devine..Far from being rivals or enemies religion and law are twin sisters, friends and mutual assistants” The concept of morality and virtue were closely tied into the law that was written in the Constitution.
If we were to rate some of our founders on a scale of one to ten; ten being the most religious, Benjamin Franklin would probably rate around three. Yet even he saw the need for divine intervention in the making of the Constitution. One fine day he stood before the assembly and spoke these words. “ 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 probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been answered Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build 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 Babe. We shall be divided by little partial local interest; our projects will be confounded, an we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word don to the future… 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” A secular document and government yes, influenced by Judeo-Christian values absolutely. It was not uncommon for a person upon introducing a law to have another question as to where in Scripture that law was based. Why? Because it was firmly believed that the Constitution was built for a virtuous and moral people.
Even those on the outside noticed the undeniable intertwining of religion and freedom and religion and law in the Americas. Alexis De Tocqueville in his volumes “Democracy in America” noted. “The Americans combine the notion of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive one without the other… The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me upon my arrival in the U.S. In France, I had seen the spirit of religion and freedom always marching in opposite directions, in America, I found them intimately linked together and joined and reigned over the same land. Religion should therefore be considered as the first political institution. From the start, politics and religion have agreed and have not since ceased to do so” A statement that can no longer be held as a truth. Yet in our past it was so every evident to anyone who came here.
George Washington in his farewell address “ Of all dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports” This is echoed by many others Charles Carroll a signer of the Declaration and a member of the Us Senate stated “ Without morals, a republic cannot subsist any length of time, they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government” It was this solid belief and foundation in the Judeo-Christian values that was believed to be the basis not only for our freedom but for our republic as a whole. “We have no other government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly in adequate to government of any other” Words spoken by John Adams and echoed by the great Orator and lawyer Daniel Webster. It was once said that a lawyer finding himself in court against Webster would refuse to show up and concede the case. Daniel Webster stated “To preserve the government we must also preserve morals. Morality rest on religion; if you destroy the foundations, the superstructure must fall. When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt laws are null and constitutions a waste of paper.” It is these foundations that we must remember that must not be removed to the back pages of our history books. Benjamin Franklin gave us a warning hundreds of years ago. “…only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters” How true this has become the less moral the people have become the more powerful the states has become. We ignore our history, we ignore our roots and we end up with an ever growing and powerful state.
I am proud of this country and its heritage; I am a believer in the Constitution and the secular government that was established. I am a firm believer in the Separation of Church and State. I am also a firm believer that unless we remember from whence we came that the things we fled from to come here and start a new nation will once again haunt us and then where will we run.