THE AMERICAN THANKSGIVING
October 3, 1789
During the time of the founding fathers Thanksgiving was a day set aside for prayer and fasting. This is the first Presidential Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, issued by George Washington in 1789.
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 to implore his protection and favor - and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be
– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks
– for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation
– for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war
– for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed
– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions
– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually
– to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed
– to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord
– To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us
– and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
WE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
OFFER OUR GRATITUDE FOR MANIFOLD BLESSINGS
by Mark Alexander....
Publisher of 'Patriot Post'
Mark Alexander is a true American Patriot who endeavors to remind us and to educate us about the history and purpose of the United States of America.
Here I have taken excerpts from an article he wrote regarding the Gratitude we owe to Almighty God as the Creator of the Life and as the Author of the Liberty enjoyed by the citizens of the United States of America....as well as the Gratitude owed to our Founding Patriots without whom there would be no country known as the United States of America.
He writes: 'What is the nature of gratitude, of true thankfulness? Acknowledgment of receiving a gift that is undeserved, then joy appropriately suffusing that knowledge, overflowing into recognition of indebtedness to the giver. In truth, we are not really giving thanks—we give nothing—we are only responding with properly grateful hearts that are due the Gift Giver.
That is the spirit in which Thanksgiving was first celebrated on our shores—and then persisted as a joining thread of our nation’s character. The Pilgrims set us on the path to become a country humbly acknowledging the thanks we owe to Almighty God as Creator of life and Author of liberty.
At Thanksgiving nowadays, we’re often invited to “count our blessings.” Indeed, Thanksgiving is an indispensable part of the foundation of our nation.
Thus the original American Thanksgiving Day centered not on harvest feasting (as in 1621) but on gathering together for public thanksgiving for God’s favor and provision.
By the mid-17th century, the custom of autumnal Thanksgivings was established throughout New England. Observance of Thanksgiving Festivals spread to other colonies during the American Revolution, and the Continental Congresses, cognizant of the need for a warring country’s continuing grateful entreaties to God, proclaimed yearly Thanksgiving Days during the Revolutionary War, from 1777 to 1783. In 1789, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving—again acknowledging the importance of a day for citizens to gather together and give thanks to God for our nation’s blessings.
On 3 October 1789, by way of proclamation, George Washington wrote: “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 favour... I do recommend and assign [this day of public Thanksgiving], to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.”
Like the Pilgrims, and many generations since, we should hold sure that whatever travails and straits we navigate, if we remain steadfast in faith and obedience, God will see us through under His care.
As Ronald Reagan noted in his 1982 Thanksgiving Proclamation, “Today we have more to be thankful for than our Pilgrim mothers and fathers who huddled on the edge of the New World that first Thanksgiving Day could ever dream of. We should be grateful not only for our blessings, but for the courage and strength of our ancestors, which enable us to enjoy the lives we do today. Let us affirm through prayers and actions our thankfulness for America’s bounty and heritage.”
Indeed, we should: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4-5)'
Thank you, Mark Alexander
Publisher of 'Patriot Post'
Permission granted to reprint
Now excerpts from another of Mr. Alexander's thoughtful articles
The Necessity of Thanksgiving
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
"Tomorrow being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us, the General ... earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day." --George Washington (December 17, 1777)
In this era of overblown political correctness, we often hear tales of Thanksgiving that stray far afield from the truth. Contemporary textbook narratives of the first American harvest celebration portray the Pilgrim colonists as having given thanks to their Indian neighbors for teaching them how to survive in a strange new world. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the historical record, in which the colonists gave thanks to God Almighty, the Provider of their blessings.
The "First Thanksgiving" is usually depicted as the Pilgrims' three-day feast in early November 1621. The Pilgrims, Calvinist Protestants who rejected the institutional Church of England, believed that the worship of God must originate freely in the individual soul, under no coercion. The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620, sailing to the New World on the promise of opportunity for religious and civil liberty.
For almost three months, 102 seafarers braved the brutal elements, arriving off what is now the Massachusetts coast. On 11 December, before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, the voyagers signed the Mayflower Compact, America's original document of civil government predicated on principles of self-government. While still anchored at Provincetown harbor, Pastor John Robinson counseled, "You are become a body politic ... and are to have only them for your ... governors which yourselves shall make choice of." Governor William Bradford described the Mayflower Compact as "a combination ... that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them...."
Upon landing, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. Malnutrition and illness during the ensuing New England winter killed nearly half their number. Through prayer and hard work, with the assistance of their Wampanoag Indian friends, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621, the bounty of which they shared with the Wampanoag. The celebration incorporated feasting and games, which remain holiday traditions.
Such ready abundance soon waned, however. Under demands from investors funding their endeavor, the Pilgrims had acquiesced to a disastrous arrangement holding all crops and property in common, in order to return an agreed-to half of their produce to their overseas backers. (These financiers insisted they could not trust faraway freeholders to split the colony's profits honestly.) Within two years, Plymouth was in danger of foundering under famine, blight and drought. Colonist Edward Winslow wrote, "The most courageous were now discouraged, because God, which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in his anger to arm himself against us."
Governor Bradford's record of the history of the colony describes 1623 as a period of arduous work coupled with "a great drought ... without any rain and with great heat for the most part," lasting from spring until midsummer. The Plymouth settlers followed the Wampanoag's recommended cultivation practices carefully, but their crops withered.
The Pilgrims soon thereafter thought better of relying solely on the physical realm, setting "a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress." In affirmation of their faith and providing a great witness to the Indians, by evening of that day the skies became overcast and gentle rains fell, restoring the yield of the fields. Governor Bradford noted, "And afterwards the Lord sent to them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving."
Winslow noted the Pilgrims' reaction as believing "it would be great ingratitude, if secretly we should smother up the same, or content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that, which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God, which dealt so graciously with us...."
This was the original American Thanksgiving Day, centered not on harvest feasting (as in 1621) but on gathering together to publicly recognize the favor and provision of Almighty God.
Bradford's diary recounts how the colonists repented of their financial folly under sway of their financiers: "At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number."
By the mid-17th century, autumnal Thanksgivings were common throughout New England; observance of Thanksgiving Festivals spread to other colonies during the American Revolution. At other junctures of "great distress" or miraculous intervention, colonial leaders called their countrymen to offer prayerful thanks to God. The Continental Congresses, cognizant of the need for a warring country's continuing grateful entreaties to God, proclaimed yearly Thanksgiving days during the Revolutionary War, from 1777 to 1783.
In 1789, after adopting the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving, recommending that citizens gather together and give thanks to God for their new nation's blessings.
Presidents George Washington, John Adams and James Madison followed the custom of declaring national days of thanks, though it was not officially declared again until another moment of national peril, when during the War Between the States Abraham Lincoln invited "the whole American people" to observe "a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father ... with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience." In 1941, Congress set permanently November's fourth Thursday as our official national Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims' temporary folly of sundering and somersaulting the material as transcendent over the Spiritual conveys an important lesson that modern histories are reluctant to tell. The Founders, recognizing this, placed first among constitutionally recognized rights the free exercise of religion -- faith through action.
If what we seek is a continuance of God’s manifold blessings, then a day of heartfelt Thanksgiving is a tiny tribute indeed.
Pilgrims giving thanks
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING CELEBRATED THE BOUNTY OF CAPITALISM
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler
Thursday, 27 November 2014
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans gather with their family and friends to celebrate the blessings that Providence has bestowed on their beloved country.
A deep appreciation of these blessings involves understanding that they were earned. It is to understand the awesome truth of how "God helps those who help themselves" applies to the Mayflower Pilgrims and their First Thanksgiving at America's birth.
This is an appreciation and understanding of which those on the Left are incapable - for it would mean celebrating the capitalist freedom that made that original Thanksgiving possible. This no liberal, no Democrat, no leftie can do. Thus they must distort history instead.
The distortion starts in Kindergarten, with the childish make-believe of your kid's school play portraying the noble Squanto teaching the helpless Pilgrims how to feed themselves. So let's drop the curtain on the distortion and watch the real thing. Here it is.
The real history of the Mayflower Pilgrims was recounted by their leader, William Bradford (1590-1657) in his book Of Plymouth Plantation, completed in 1647.
It is from Bradford that we learn of Squanto, who did indeed show the Pilgrims how to "set" or plant corn (a new unfamiliar crop for them). Then we learn that the Pilgrims taught the Indians how to grow more corn than they ever had before:
"The Indeans used to have nothing so much corne as they have since the English have stored them with their hoes, and seene their industrie in breaking up new grounds therwith."
Reading the real history of the Pilgrims is so revelatory that I want you to see it at length. The Pilgrims landed in December 1620, suffered a horrible winter, figured out how to fish and hunt that spring and summer so that there may have been some sort of feast with friendly Indians in the fall of 1621 - although Bradford doesn't recount the incident.
But by 1622 they were starving. There was no "Thanksgiving" that year. There was the next - for 1623 saw the Pilgrims in well-fed abundance, and thus was the year of the real First Thanksgiving.
What made the difference? Here are Bradford's own words (albeit with modern spelling like "been" instead of "bene" - the original spelling is in the link above; the parentheses are his, the explanatory brackets are mine), describing Anno Dom.1623:
It may be thought strange that these people should fall to these extremities in so short a time, being left competently provided when the ship [the Mayflower] left them, and had an addition by that moyetie [portion] of corn that was got by trade, besides much they got of the Indians where they lived, by one means and other.
It must needs be their great disorder, for they spent excessively whilst they had, or could get it. And after they began to come into wants, many sold away their clothes and bed coverings; others (so base were they) became servants to the Indians, and would cut them wood and fetch them water for a cap full of corn; others fell to plain stealing, both night and day, from the Indians, of which they grievously complained. In the end, they came to that misery that some starved and died with cold and hunger...
All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery.
At length, after much debate of things, the Governor [Bradford] (with the advise of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular [plant corn on his own private land], and in that regard trust to them selves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before.
And so [there was] assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance), and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then other wise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.
The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before they would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times -- that the taking away of property, and bringing in communities into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing, as if they were wiser than God.
For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young-men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine [complain] that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children, with out any recompense.
The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division [in amount] of victails [food] and clothes, than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors, and victails, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them.
And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.
Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought them selves in the like condition, and have as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them.
And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them...
By the time harvest was come [fall 1623], instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.
And the effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had, one way and other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day .
That is as effective a refutation of socialism and affirmation of capitalism as there has ever been. The Pilgrims were starving, stealing and begging from the Indians under a no private property/everybody work for the common good economy. They switch to a private property/everybody work for themselves economy, and within one season there is abundance for all.
Bradford's history - the real history of Thanksgiving - is there in plain black and white, undeniable and irrefutable for anyone to see. It is the history that should be taught to our schoolchildren but is not. It is ignored and denied. It likely is the very first time you yourself have ever seen Bradford's words.
The purpose of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for being American. This is the day to celebrate the goodness of our country - the moral goodness, the moral decency of American institutions, American history, and the character of the American people. Without any buts.
So this day, we can relish and revel in the capitalist freedom and abundance that Providence enabled the Pilgrims to choose, and create America thereby.
That freedom and abundance is today being threatened as never before by a Fascist Left determined to destroy it. Now more than ever is the time to focus anew on all that we love about our country, to know that Providence has always smiled upon it - for we, like the Pilgrims have the capacity to choose capitalist freedom over socialist slavery.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
a Thanksgiving Quiz
This nation was founded by Christians, and Thanksgiving is a time when we can reflect upon this rich, Christian heritage. This Thanksgiving quiz will test your knowledge about our nation's biblical foundations. We hope that you will not only take this test and pass it on to others, but we also hope that you will be encouraged to study more about the Christian foundations of this country.
1. What group began the tradition of Thanksgiving?
A day of Thanksgiving was set aside by the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony. This colony was the first permanent settlement in New England. The Pilgrims were originally known as the Forefathers or Founders. The term Pilgrim was first used in the writings of colonist William Bradford and is now used to designate them.
2. Why did they celebrate Thanksgiving?
Life was hard in the New World. Out of 103 Pilgrims, 51 of these died in the first terrible winter. After the first harvest was completed, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving and prayer. By 1623, a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of Thanksgiving because the rain came during their prayers. The custom prevailed in New England and eventually became a national holiday.
3. When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?
The state of New York adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom in 1817. By the time of the Civil War, many other states had done the same. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of Thanksgiving. Since then, each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation for the fourth Thursday of November.
4. Why did the Pilgrims leave Europe?
Among the early Pilgrims was a group of Separatists who were members of a religious movement that broke from the Church of England during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1606 William Brewster led a group of Separatists to Leiden (in the Netherlands) to escape religious persecution in England. After living in Leiden for more than ten years, some members of the group voted to emigrate to America. The voyage was financed by a group of London investors who were promised produce from America in exchange for their assistance.
5. How did the Pilgrims emigrate to the New World?
On September 16, 1620, a group numbering 102 men, women, and children left Plymouth, England, for America on the Mayflower. Having been blown off course from their intended landing in Virginia by a terrible storm, the Pilgrims landed at Cape Cod on November 11. On December 21, they landed on the site of Plymouth Colony. While still on the ship, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact.
6. What is the Mayflower Compact?
On November 11, 1620, Governor William Bradford and the leaders upon the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact before setting foot on land. They wanted to acknowledge God's sovereignty in their lives and their need to obey Him. The Mayflower Compact was America's first great constitutional document and is often called "The American Covenant."
7. What is the significance of the Mayflower Compact?
After suffering years of persecution in England and spending difficult years of exile in the Netherlands, the Pilgrims wanted to establish their colony on the biblical principles they suffered for in Europe. Before they set foot on land, they drew up this covenant with God. They feared launching their colony until there was a recognition of God's sovereignty and their collective need to obey Him.
8. What does the Mayflower Compact say?
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement 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 present solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends foresaid, and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland.
9. Why didn't the pilgrims sail to the original destination in Virginia?
The Pilgrims were blown off course and landed at Cape Cod in what now appears to be God's providence. Because their patent did not include this territory, they consulted with the Captain of the Mayflower and resolved to sail southward. But the weather and geography did not allow them to do so. They encountered "dangerous shoals and roaring breakers" and were quickly forced to return to Cape Cod. From there they began scouting expeditions and finally discovered what is now Plymouth. Had they arrived just a few years earlier, they would have been attacked and destroyed by one of the fiercest tribes in the region. However, three years earlier (in 1617), the Patuxet tribe had been wiped out by a plague. The Pilgrims thus landed in one of the few places where they could survive.
10. What role did the lone surviving Indian play in the lives of the Pilgrims?
There was one survivor of the Patuxet tribe: Squanto. He was kidnaped in 1605 by Captain Weymouth and taken to England where he learned English and was eventually able to return to New England. When he found his tribe had been wiped out by the plague, he lived with a neighboring tribe. When Squanto learned that the Pilgrims were at Plymouth, he came to them and showed them how to plant corn and fertilize with fish. He later converted to Christianity. William Bradford said that Squanto "was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation."
11. What was William Bradford's proclamation for Thanksgiving?
Three years after their arrival, and two years after the first Thanksgiving, Governor Bradford made an official proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving:
Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November the 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to the pastor and render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.
12. Were the colonists dedicated to Christian principles in their lives on days other than Thanksgiving?
The Pilgrims were, and so were the other colonists. Consider this sermon by John Winthrop given while aboard the Arabella in 1630. This is what he said about the Puritans who formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony: "For the persons, we are a Company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ. . . . For the work we have in hand, it is by a mutual consent through a special overruling providence, and a more than an ordinary approbation of the Churches of Christ to seek out a place of Cohabitation and Consortship under a due form of Government both civil and ecclesiastical." They established a Christian Commonwealth in which every area of their lives both civil and ecclesiastical fell under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
13. How did the Puritans organize their economic activities?
After the first year, the colony foundered because of the collective economic system forced upon them by the merchants in London. All the settlers worked only for the joint partnership and were fed out of the common stores. The land and the houses built on it were the joint property of the merchants and colonists for seven years and then divided equally. When Deacon Carver died, William Bradford became governor. Seeing the failure of communal farming, he instituted what today would be called free enterprise innovations. Bradford assigned plots of land to each family to work, and the colony began to flourish. Each colonist was challenged to better themselves and their land by working to their fullest capacity. Many Christian historians and economists today point to this fundamental economic change as one of the key reasons for the success of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.
14. What has been the significance of the Pilgrims and their legacy of Thanksgiving?
On the bicentennial celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Daniel Webster on December 22, 1820, declared the following: "Let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary."
The legacy of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving is the legacy of godly men and women who sought to bring Christian principles to this nation. These spread throughout the nation for centuries.
15. How were Christian principles brought to the founding of this republic?
Most historians will acknowledge that America was born in the midst of a revival. This occurred from approximately 1740-1770 and was known as the First Great Awakening. Two prominent preachers during that time were Jonathan Edwards (best known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God") and George Whitfield. They preached up and down the East Coast and saw revival break out. Churches were planted, schools were built, and lives were changed.
16. How influential were Christian ideas in the Constitution?
While the Constitution does not specifically mention God or the Bible, the influence of Christianity can plainly be seen. Professor M.E. Bradford shows in his book A Worthy Company, that 50 of the 55 men who signed the Constitution were church members who endorsed the Christian faith. James Madison, often known as the architect of Constitution, said that: "We have staked the whole future of the American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future . . . 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."
17. Weren't many of the founders non-Christians?
Yes, some were. And there were those like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, good examples of men involved in the drafting of the Declaration, who were influenced by ideas from the Enlightenment. Yet revisionists have attempted to make these men more secular than they really were. Jefferson, for example, wrote to Benjamin Rush that "I am a Christian . . . sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others." Franklin called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention saying, "God governs 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 notice?" While they were hardly examples of biblical Christianity, they nevertheless, believed in God and believed in Absolute Standards which should be a part of the civil order.
18. How important was Christianity in colonial education in America?
Young colonists' education usually came from the Bible, the Hornbook, and the New England Primer. The Hornbook consisted of a single piece of parchment attached to a paddle of wood. Usually the alphabet, the Lord's Prayer, and religious doctrines were written on it. The New England Primer taught a number of lessons and included such things as the names of the Old and New Testament books, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and John Cotton's "Spiritual Milk for American Babies."
19. How important was Christianity in colonial higher education?
Most of the major universities were established by Christian denominations. Harvard was a Puritan school. William and Mary was an Anglican school. Yale was Congregational, Princeton was Presbyterian, and Brown was Baptist. The first motto for Harvard was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae (Truth for Christ and the Church). Students gathered for prayer and readings from the Scriptures every day. Yale was established by Increase Mather and Cotton Mather because Harvard was moving away from its original Calvinist philosophy and eventually drifted to Unitarianism. The founders of Yale said that "every student shall consider the main end of his study to wit to know God in Jesus Christ and answerably to lead a Godly, sober life."
20. If Christianity was so important in colonial America, why does the Constitution appear to establish a wall of separation between church and state?
Contrary to what many Americans may think, the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. In fact, there is no mention of the words church, state, or separation in the First Amendment or anywhere within the Constitution.
The First Amendment does guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.
Anderson, Kerby. "Thanksgiving Quiz." Probe 1996.
Probe Ministries is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to reclaim the primacy of Christian thought and values in Western culture through media, education, and literature. In seeking to accomplish this mission, Probe provides perspective on the integration of the academic disciplines and historic Christianity.
Kerby Anderson is the president of Probe Ministries International. He received his B.S. from Oregon State University, M.F.S. from Yale University, and M.A. from Georgetown University. He is the author of several books, including Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Living Ethically in the 90s, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope, and Moral Dilemmas.
Copyright © 1996-1999 Probe Ministries
Lois J Crawford
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