Our Founding Fathers Speak

When we delve into the history of our country, it’s remarkable how many of our leaders were devout Christians. To know that for certain, we can take a look at some of their comments. Let’s take a look at some words from our fathers. You may be surprised.
John Hancock
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I John Hancock, . . . being advanced in years and being of perfect mind and memory-thanks be given to God-therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die [Hebrews 9:27], do make and ordain this my last will and testament…Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth . . . nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God. . .

Will of John Hancock

Patrick Henry
Governor of Virginia, Patriot

This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.

Will of Patrick Henry

Robert Treat Paine
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.

Robert Treat Paine, The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, Stephen Riley and Edward Hanson, editors (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1992), Vol. I, p. 48, March/April, 1749.

[W]hen I consider that this instrument contemplates my departure from this life and all earthly enjoyments and my entrance on another state of existence, I am constrained to express my adoration of the Supreme Being, the Author of my existence, in full belief of his providential goodness and his forgiving mercy revealed to the world through Jesus Christ, through whom I hope for never ending happiness in a future state, acknowledging with grateful remembrance the happiness I have enjoyed in my passage through a long life. . .

Will of Robert Treat Paine

Benjamin Rush
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!

Benjamin Rush, The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, George Corner, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press for the American Philosophical Society, 1948), p. 166, Travels Through Life, An Account of Sundry Incidents & Events in the Life of Benjamin Rush.

Roger Sherman
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Signer of the Constitution

I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. . . . that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a revelation from God. . . . that God did send His own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners, and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the Gospel offer.

Lewis Henry Boutell, The Life of Roger Sherman (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1896), pp. 272-273.

John Witherspoon
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12]. . . . [I]f you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish.

John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, pp. 276, 278, The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ, January 2, 1758.

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Our Founders Talk About Voting

John Adams

We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands; we have a check upon two branches of the legislature . . . the power I mean of electing at stated periods [each] branch. . . . It becomes necessary to every [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman, and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly . . . and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party [loyalty] and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.

[John Adams, The Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, ed. (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), Vol. 1, p. 81, from “‘U’ to the Boston Gazette” written on August 29, 1763.]


Samuel Adams

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), Vol. IV, p. 256, in the Boston Gazette on April 16, 1781.]

Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.

[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), Vol. III, p. 236-237, to James Warren on November 4, 1775.]


Matthias Burnett

Consider well the important trust . . . which God . . . [has] put into your hands. . . . To God and posterity you are accountable for [your rights and your rulers]. . . . Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you. . . . [L]ook well to the characters and qualifications of those you elect and raise to office and places of trust. . . . Think not that your interests will be safe in the hands of the weak and ignorant; or faithfully managed by the impious, the dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence of God nor regard His laws will be uncorrupt in office, firm in defense of the righteous cause against the oppressor, or resolutly oppose the torrent of iniquity. . . . Watch over your liberties and privileges – civil and religious – with a careful eye.

[Matthias Burnett, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Norwalk, An Election Sermon, Preached at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 12, 1803 (Hartford: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin, 1803), pp. 27-28.]


Frederick Douglass

I have one great political idea. . . . That idea is an old one. It is widely and generally assented to; nevertheless, it is very generally trampled upon and disregarded. The best expression of it, I have found in the Bible. It is in substance, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people” [Proverbs 14:34]. This constitutes my politics – the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics. . . . I feel it my duty to do all in my power to infuse this idea into the public mind, that it may speedily be recognized and practiced upon by our people.

[Frederick Douglass, The Frederick Douglass Papers, John Blassingame, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), Vol. 2, p. 397, from a speech delivered at Ithaca, New York, October 14th, 1852.]

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Wisdom Of Our Founders

James McHenry

Signer of the Constitution

[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the 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. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.

(Source: Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14.)

Jedediah Morse

Patriot and “Father of American Geography”

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.

(Source: Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America(Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1799), p. 9.)

William Penn

Founder of Pennsylvania

[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God’s, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.

(Source: Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania, 1682. Written by William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania.)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.

(Source: Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v.Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).)

Benjamin Rush

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.

(Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical(Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 8.)

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. . . . All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it [the Bible] must perish, and how consoling the thought, it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. “The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” [Matthew 1:18]

(Source: Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), p. 936, to John Adams, January 23, 1807.)

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Let’sTake A Cue From Benjamin Franklin

At this time in our history, it’s so important to remember our heritage. We started as a Christian nation. Let’s continue.

 

Benjamin Franklin

Signer of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence

[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

(Source: Benjamin Franklin, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, 1840), Vol. X, p. 297, April 17, 1787. )

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 assured, 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 Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and 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.

(Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

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The Foundations Of Our Country Are Sure

John Hancock
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I John Hancock, . . . being advanced in years and being of perfect mind and memory-thanks be given to God-therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die [Hebrews 9:27], do make and ordain this my last will and testament…Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth . . . nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God. . .

Will of John Hancock

Patrick Henry
Governor of Virginia, Patriot

This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.

Will of Patrick Henry

Robert Treat Paine
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.

Robert Treat Paine, The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, Stephen Riley and Edward Hanson, editors (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1992), Vol. I, p. 48, March/April, 1749.

[W]hen I consider that this instrument contemplates my departure from this life and all earthly enjoyments and my entrance on another state of existence, I am constrained to express my adoration of the Supreme Being, the Author of my existence, in full belief of his providential goodness and his forgiving mercy revealed to the world through Jesus Christ, through whom I hope for never ending happiness in a future state, acknowledging with grateful remembrance the happiness I have enjoyed in my passage through a long life. . .

Will of Robert Treat Paine

Benjamin Rush
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!

Benjamin Rush, The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, George Corner, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press for the American Philosophical Society, 1948), p. 166, Travels Through Life, An Account of Sundry Incidents & Events in the Life of Benjamin Rush.

Roger Sherman
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Signer of the Constitution

I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. . . . that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a revelation from God. . . . that God did send His own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners, and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the Gospel offer.

Lewis Henry Boutell, The Life of Roger Sherman (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1896), pp. 272-273.

John Witherspoon
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12]. . . . [I]f you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish.

John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, pp. 276, 278, The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ, January 2, 1758.

 

 

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The Boldness Of John Adams

 

 JOHN ADAMS

SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; JUDGE; DIPLOMAT; ONE OF TWO SIGNERS OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS; SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.1

The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation.2

Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.3

The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.4

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!5

I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.6

Notes:

1, Thomas Jefferson The Writings Of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, pp 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813. 2. Letter from John Adams to Benjamin Rush, from Quincy, Massachusetts, dated Dec 21, 1809.  3. John Adams, The Works Of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1856) Vol X, p 254, to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817. 4. John Adams, Works, Vol III, p. 421, diary entry for July 26, 1796  5. John Adams, Works, Vol II, pp 6-7, diary entry for Feb 22, 1756  6. John Adams, Works, Vol X, p 85, to Thomas Jefferson on Dec 25, 1813

The Mayflower Compact

 During the next few weeks, I would like to share some of the historic documents which show how significant. Christianity was to our founding fathers. They were often very bold about their trust in God.

This Mayflower Compact was written aboard the ship before the pilgrims settled in New England. Many recognize this as the first document resembling a constitution written by the earliest settlers.

Please note: the colony was planted “for the Glory of God and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”

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, &c. Having

undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country,

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 Politick,

for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact,

constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, 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 hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod

 the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland,

the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Thanks to Yale Law Library for sharing this document.