“Our Republic is in peril, our justice system is broken,” NY Congresswoman Elise Stefanik just warned. Many in the nation’s capital agree with her as do millions across the heartland. I too agree. I am 76 years old and this is not the America that I grew up in. The moral decadence into which we have sunk as a nation has no parallels in our history. It is a dangerous time.
Because they understood the flawed character of human nature, America’s founders knew this could happen. They held no romantic, utopian view about America. They knew that certain characteristics would have to remain in place if the free Republic they formed was to survive, and they issued very direct warnings in this regard.
They did not fear an outside enemy destroying America; they feared the enemy from within. They would all agree with Abraham Lincoln who said, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author.” They feared a generation that would discard "religion" and "morality" and live with no transcendent moral compass. Such a generation, they believed, would destroy the American Republic.
In the quotes below, remember that when the Founders use the word "religion," they are referring to Christianity. Christianity was their religion. Without exception, they believed that only a moral and religious people could maintain the free Republic that had formed. And notice that they consistently couple "morality" with "religion" for they believed that morality could not be had without religion.
This is why, two weeks before signing the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his cousin, Zabdiel Adams, a minister of the Gospel, and said,
Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 164).
Twenty-two years later in 1798, President Adams gave a speech to the officers of the Massachusetts Militia in which he clearly stated his belief that only a Christian morality could maintain the free Republic he had helped establish. He said,
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . .. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 164),
We now have a generation that, in the words of Adams, is “unbridled by morality and religion.” The Church in America must accept responsibility for this situation for we obviously have not been salt (restraining corruption) and light (dispelling darkness) to this generation, as Jesus called us to be in Matthew 5:13-14.
Because of this loss of morality, our nation is becoming more and more chaotic, and our liberties are rapidly slipping away, as many push for more government control. Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician, member of the Continental Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, warned of this, saying,
The only foundation for a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 163).
George Washington gave the same warning in his 1796 Farewell address after serving two terms as the nation’s first president. He urged the new nation to maintain "religion" and "morality," which he called "indispensable" supports for national prosperity. Interestingly, he did not say that religion should be "tolerated," but that it is "indispensable" for the life of the nation.
He also warned against the false supposition, entertained by so many today, that morality can be maintained apart from religion [Christianity]. He called religion and morality “the great pillars of human happiness” and then said,
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion [Christianity]. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 165).
Thomas Jefferson was so impressed with Washington’s speech that he made it required reading at the University of Virginia, which he had founded. This should not be surprising for Jefferson too was convinced that only by embracing the moral teachings of Jesus and the New Testament could a nation enjoy both stability and freedom. He once said, “Of all the systems of morality that have come under my observation, none appear so pure to me as that of Jesus.”
John Dickinson, chairman of the committee that produced the Articles of Confederation, warned that “when states lose their liberty, this calamity is generally owing to a decay of virtue.” When Thomas Paine, after being negatively influenced by the atheistic French Revolution, sent Benjamin Franklin a manuscript that attacked traditional Christian doctrine and values, Franklin refused to print it. He suggested to Paine that he burn it and said, “If men are so wicked with Christianity, what would they be if without it?”
The Founders Believed in Spiritual Awakening
Virtually every Founder, to one degree or another, was positively impacted by the First Great Awakening (1726-70). This fact led the late Harvard historian, Perry Miller, to say, "The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the evangelical preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening" (Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage 2nd Edition, 67). Most Founders would agree with Samuel Adams, another prominent Founding Father, who believed such Awakenings necessary for the maintenance of national religion and morality.
For example, the late Dr. Michael Novak says that Adams believed: (1) Liberty cannot be enjoyed apart from virtue [morality] and (2) Virtue is unlikely to remain vigorous from one generation to another without "religious awakenings.” Novak goes on to say,
Far from having a hostility toward religion, the Founders counted on religion [Christianity] for the underlying philosophy of the republic, its supporting ethic, and its reliable source of rejuvenation (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 171).
If American freedom is to be preserved and enjoyed by another generation, we must heed the warnings of the Founders. It is not too late. Several years ago, I experienced an unusual 7-hour visitation of God in which He assured me that America "could" see another great, national spiritual awakening that would save her from ruin.
As documented in my book, America’s Revival Heritage 2nd Edition, America has experienced at least four such Awakenings. Such Awakenings, however, never begin at the White House. They begin at God’s House when His people throw off the curse of wanting to be "liked" by the world and popular culture and begin taking seriously their responsibility to be salt and light to their generation (Matthew 5:13-14; II Chronicles 7:14).