Part 9 – Influence of the Bible
Foundation Scripture: Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Many of the unique characteristics of America are rooted in the Bible. Our Founding Fathers knew that it was the influence of the Bible that changes society. The reason for the way Americans live is because of the Spiritual heritage of our Founding Fathers. Today’s revisionist historians would have you believe that our Founding Fathers were atheists and deists, but when you study what they wrote we see an entirely different picture.
Patrick Henry wrote: “The Bible is worth more than all the other books that were ever printed”. Noah Webster declared: “The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society, the best book for regulating the temporal (that is secular) concerns of men.” Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the one considered the Father of American Public Schools, urged: “The Bible should be read in our school in preference to all other books from its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public happiness.” Daniel Webster, the great defender of the Constitution, declared: “To the free and universal reading of the Bible .... men are much indebted for the right views of civil liberty. The Bible is a book which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his own equality with his fellow man.” Many other Founders made similar statements about the relevance of the Bible’s positive effects on daily and public living. Notice that these are not ministers of the Gospel, but statesmen, judges and educators. It is understood that during the time of our Founders, people from all walks of life declared the relevance of the Bible in every aspect of our life and culture. Today we see the Bible as an inspirational book or devotional book but our Founders saw it as a book for all aspects of life. Paul wrote to Timothy that scripture was the best guide for all aspects of life: 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” DeWitt Clinton, who introduced the 12th Amendment which was ratified in 1804, stated that Christianity can be contemplated two ways; 1.) Reference to the influence in this world, and 2.) Reference to our destiny in the world to come. We, today, have the second part down, but we don’t have a very good grasp on the first.
Robert Winthrop was a statesman, historian and a strong Christian. He was also Speaker of the House from 1847-1849. In one of his speeches on the Bible and American government he stated: “All societies of man should be governed some way or another. The less they have of state government, the more they must have of self-government. The less they rely on Public law and physical force, the more they must rely on private, moral restraint. Man, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them, either by the Word of God or the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or by the bayonet. It may do for other counties and other governments to talk about the state supporting religion. Here under our own free institutions it is religion that must support the state.”
While John Quincy Adams was a diplomat in St. Petersburg, Russia he wrote many letters to his 10 year old son, George Washington Adams, on how to read the Bible and how to get the most out of the study of the Bible. The counsel in these letters was thought to be so valuable that the letters were put into a book so that all could benefit from that counsel. Here is an example of this counsel: “The first and almost the only book deserving of universal attention is the Bible. I have myself for many years made it a practice to read the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and with the same which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advance in wisdom and virtue.” John Quincy Adams didn’t read the Bible simply as a devotional but he expected to receive wisdom and virtue with the intent of finding things that he could apply to his everyday life that would make his life better.
One aspect of America that has set it apart from all other nations from the beginning is our benevolence. I can recall through all my life when another nation had a natural disaster, earthquake, tsunami, or whatever, we are usually the first nation there with medical supplies, food and whatever else is needed. When we’ve had a disaster we get letters of condolences and that is about it. Our prosperity has been caused by our obedience to God and His Word. We are commanded to be generous and compassionate. Jesus spoke about compassion 14 times in the Gospels and John wrote in 1 John 3:17 “But whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” John Adams stated: “Christian benevolence makes it our indispensible duty to lay ourselves out to serve our fellow creatures to the utmost of our power.” John Quincy Adams stated: “The doctrines proclaimed by Jesus and His apostles include lessons of peace, benevolence, meekness, brotherly love and charity.” Daniel Webster declared: “Let the religious element in man’s nature be neglected and it becomes the creature of selfish passion. The culture of religious sentiment incites a general benevolence.”
Elias Boudinot was a distinguished Founding Father. He was president of Congress during the Revolution. He signed the peace treaty with Great Britain to end the Revolution and was a member of the first federal Congress, a framer of the Bill of Rights, director of the US Mint, and he was the first attorney admitted to the Supreme Court Bar to argue cases before the Supreme Court. Through all of this he remained a serious student of the Bible. As it was a common practice among the Founding Fathers to read through the Bible annually, so it was with Elias Boudinot and at 76 when he became President of the American Bible Society and even though he had read through the Bible many times he had this to say: “For nearly a half a century, I have anxiously and critically studied the Bible and I still scarcely ever take it up that I do not find something new.” Scripture tells us that His Word is wisdom; Romans 11:33 “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (35) Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (36) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Is it any wonder that our Founding Fathers were able to establish a document that has been more successful than any other document contrived by man? Elias Boudinot continued: “Were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive- both to the wise and the ignorant. Were you to ask me for the one book affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the enquiring mind, I would still say the Bible. And should you ask again about the best philosophy, or the most interesting history, I would still urge you to look into you Bible. I would make it, in short, the alpha and omega of knowledge.”
Founding Father James Mc Henry, Founder of the Baltimore Bible Society and Secretary of War under George Washington and John Adams and the namesake for Fort McHenry where the battle was fought that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, believed that the Bible was so important to the government that he helped establish that he wanted it available to everyone. He explained: “The Holy Scriptures . . .can alone secure 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 (protections) around our institutions.”
There is viable statistics to back this up. Many states have ‘faith based’ prisons. They are voluntary but at these prisons they receive a heavy dose of faith. In the standard state run prison system the recidivism rate is 68%. Which means that within two years of release, 68% of these prisoners will commit a crime that will land them back in jail. In the ‘faith based’ prisons the recidivism rate is 8%. That’s a 85% reduction. What kind of economic savings would we have if we could cut back on 85% of our courts, prisons and law enforcement. Because of our present system we have about 1.4 million children who have one or more parents in prison and statistics show that if a child has a parent in prison there is a 90% chance that the child will eventually wind up in prison. I did prison ministry for 18 years and I was shocked at the number of men that were in prison whose parents had been in prison. If we can get the 85% of people to stay out of prison, it isn’t just an economic benefit, but a human benefit. The drug rehab figures are just as staggering. The state run rehabs have a less than 10% cure rate where a faith based drug rehab and a cure rate of over 70%. James Mc Henry was accurate in his belief of the importance of the study of the Bible.
John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and President of Congress during the Revolution, was one of the most influential persons in getting the Constitution ratified. He declared “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate you life by its precepts.”
John Adams, signer of the Constitution, the treaty with Great Britain, and signer of the Bill of Rights, was the first vice-President and second President, believed that the influence of the Bible was so important he predicted: “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 utopia- what a paradise would this region be.”
Noah Webster, in his History of the United States, a book he wrote for use in our public schools, did not hesitate to tell student the importance of the Bible: “The brief exposition of the Constitution of the United States will unfold to young persons the principles of republican government; and . . our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible.” Webster also pointed out the importance of the people to follow the precepts of the Bible: “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all of your civil constitutions and laws. . . All of the misery and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from them despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”
Our Founding Fathers believed that the Bible was the best influence for society. The church today must begin teaching that again.