The Master Key for America Recovering Her Greatness
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And from the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father and Sarah who bore you.
Even as we celebrate the 236th birthday of our homeland, America is being reshaped into a politically correct, secularist, socialist nation with obvious anti-Christian overtones. This is happening because we lost sight of our national roots, i.e., of our radical Christian heritage. Karl Marx once said, “A people without a heritage are easily persuaded,” and that is certainly the case in America today. Because we lost sight of our profound Christian past, an America president can tell a foreign, Muslim audience, “America is not a Christian nation,” with hardly a peep of protest from back home. Because we lost sight of our radical Christian heritage, deviant, immoral behavior is daily piped into our lives and homes by the mass media; and such behavior is protected by the state and promoted in colleges and public schools as the norm while expressions of faith in God are suppressed. Because we as American Christians did not preserve our nation’s heritage, a radical, secularist minority has rewritten and reinterpreted America’s history and, thereby, convinced judges, politicians, and the American people that the First Amendment was put in place to keep religion out of government and the public arena. We are now facing a crossroads in our history as a nation and there is a question whether the American republic founded in 1776 will survive.
We Must Recover our Past
I am convinced that the key to America once again being a beacon of hope for the rest of the world lies in us revisiting and recovering our past. At a critical moment in Israel’s history, God instructed His people through the prophet Isaiah to revisit their past. Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you (Isaiah 51-1-2). By revisiting their past, they would receive the inspiration and information needed for facing the challenges of the present and the future.
We face a similar situation in America today and if we are to survive we must revisit our past and see the hand of God in our beginnings as a nation. We must recover the truth of our Christian heritage—a heritage that is being taken from us by secularist historians who are creating an America in their own image. This is crucial, for as the noted Danish Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, said, “Life can only be lived by looking forward, but it can only be understood by looking backward.” As we pause this July 4th and take a look backward to the place from which we emerged as a nation—to the rock from which we were hewn--we will be inspired to rise up in a new boldness of faith and lay hold of our future.
America Emerged Out of a Great Spiritual Awakening
The truth is that America emerged out of a great Spiritual Awakening that transformed the thirteen Colonies. As a result of this Great Awakening, entire towns repented, denominational walls were broken down, regional conflicts were healed, and for the first time the scattered Colonists began to see themselves as “one nation under God.” One of America’s best known Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, told how his hometown of Philadelphia was transformed by this Awakening. In his Autobiography, he wrote,
From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening with hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.
Further north in New England Jonathan Edwards said that the entire town of Northampton, MA, “seemed to be full of the presence of God” and that “a loose, careless person could scarcely be found.” In nearby Westfield a Rev. Bull told of the sudden transformation of his town and said that more had been done in one week than in seven years before. There were so many conversions associated with this Awakening that a number of colleges were formed to train ministers for the new churches that were springing up. One of these was King’s College (now Columbia University) and at the time of its founding in 1754, an advertisement was posted in New York papers stating;
The chief thing in this college is to teach and engage children to know God in Jesus Christ and to love Him and serve Him in all sobriety, godliness, and richness of life with a perfect heart and willing mind.
There is no question that most—if not all—of the Founding Fathers were profoundly influenced by the Great Awakening. This meant that their Christianity, for the most part, was not a dry, formal orthodoxy based on church membership, but was, instead, a vital faith that was both known in the head and experienced in the heart. This is why prayers and Bible readings, along with other expressions of faith in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ permeate their writings. In fact, a recent, ten-year study project to discover where the Founders got their ideas for America’s founding documents revealed that, by far, the single, most-cited authority in their writings was the Bible.
This vibrant Christian faith of the Founders was confirmed by Patrick Henry (1736-1799) who declared, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why the late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, said, “The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening.” The following is a small sampling of the faith of just some of the Founding Fathers.
The Faith of the Founders
George Washington, the first president, took the oath of office with his hand placed on a Bible, signifying his recognition of the Bible as the source of guidance and inspiration for his administration. This was no mere political formality, for Washington believed that, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” After his inaugural address, which was filled with references to God and the Bible, he and the Congress proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel to participate in a worship service. He once publicly prayed, “Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ.” Did Washington want to exclude Christian influence from the political or public arena? Hardly!
John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers and the 2nd president of the United States, gave a moving account of the First Continental Congress that was convened in September of 1774. The Congress was opened with an extended time of prayer and the reading of four chapters from the Bible. When Psalm 35:9, 23 was read, many were moved to tears and spontaneous expressions of prayer. The passage reads, My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation. . . . Awake and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord! In a letter to his wife Abigail about this event, Adams wrote,
Who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine interposition and aid. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. It seems as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read that day.
Did Adams envision Christian influence being banned from Congress and government institutions? Obviously not!
Benjamin Franklin is often pointed to as one of the non-Christian founders of this nation. In his early years Franklin did entertain Deistic views, but through the years his views changed; a fact attributable to the Awakening and his friendship with George Whitefield, the most prominent preacher of the Awakening. In his Autobiography Franklin tells of attending Whitefield’s meetings and of Whitefield staying in his home. He also tells how Whitefield often prayed for his conversion but says he never lived to see his prayers answered.
But on June 28, 1787, seventeen years after Whitefield’s death, the Constitutional Convention was about to be suspended because of unresolved dissension. It was a very critical moment. It was at this time that Franklin, now 81 years of age, rose to his feet and addressed the Convention president, George Washington, with these words.
How has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly appealing to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. 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. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.
According to those present, “An atmosphere of reconciliation seemed to settle over the convention hall.” Petty grievances and local interests were laid aside, and the delegates went on to complete their task of formulating the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. I think Whitefield must have smiled and all heaven with him.
Thomas Jefferson is also often pointed to as one of the non-Christian Founders, the champion of the separation of church and state, and an advocate for keeping religion out of government. Nothing could be further from the truth!
It is true that, later in life, Jefferson had questions about the trinitarian nature of God and the deity of Christ (some think brought on by the tragic loss of his wife, his mother, and a friend). Nonetheless, he never considered himself a Deist, confessing instead, “I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” As president, Jefferson closed all presidential documents with the words, “In the year of our Lord Christ.” He was a life-long member of the Anglican Church and attended church on a regular basis. In fact, as president, he sat on the front row of services that were convened each Sunday in the chambers of the House of Representatives. At one point, dissatisfied with the music, he ordered the Marine Band to provide music for these church services—a band that was paid out of the Federal treasury
Jefferson was convinced that human rights are derived, not from the state, but from God, and he expressed concern that Americans must never forget this fact. He once said,
God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.
The Truth about the “Wall of Separation”
In a letter dated January 1, 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, Jefferson referred to a “wall of separation” between the church and state. The letter was a response to Baptists who were concerned about their status in the new nation and how they would be treated. They had reason for concern, for throughout Europe, Baptists had been an outlawed, religious sect, severely persecuted by the State and the State Churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.
To alleviate their concerns, Jefferson quoted the First Amendment, enacted December 15, 1792, that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." He then assured the Baptist Association that this meant that, in America, there would be “a wall of separation” that would protect them and any other religious group from the interference of the state. Jefferson’s “wall of separation” was obviously unilateral—there to protect the church and people of faith from government intrusion.
Modern secularists and revisionists have turned Jefferson’s statement on its head by reinterpreting it to mean a “wall of separation” to keep expressions of faith out of government. Jefferson would turn over in his grave at how his statement is being distorted and misapplied today.
Will America Survive?
In 1831 the French sociologist, Alexis d Tocqueville, visited America to study its institutions and culture. He was profoundly impressed with the spiritual vitality of our land and wrote, “The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States.” Somehow, I think he would have an opposite impression if he visited America today and encountered the moral decadence expressed in the media and on the streets of our major cities.
Another statement that has been attributed to Tocqueville goes to the heart of the problem today and reveals why America’s only hope is another Great Awakening—an Awakening that will only occur as we revisit our past and learn our true Christian heritage.
I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers - and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution - and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
This article is derived from Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, America’s Revival Heritage, available from Amazon and from www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.