by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC, Camarillo, Calif.
Psalm 90 describes our nation’s plight as we have entered this 21st century. We are in the midst of history revision in which many people do not want to face the truth about American history and choose to be in denial related to our country’s godly heritage. We especially do not hear this in the media, and we hear even fabrications regarding why the Pilgrims came to this country, about our founding fathers being deists, and that we did not have a strong religious influence in founding this country. All of these things are wishful thinking of a godless generation that does not want to allow God to even be known as a fact of our country’s history.
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man to destruction, And say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; They are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers. For we have been consumed by Your anger, And by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! 15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, The years in which we have seen evil. 16 Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.
Verse 1 says God has been our dwelling place through all generations. The word dwelling place carries with it the ideal of living among us, and of not only a place that we live, but a place that we live and we move and we have our being. For me to go to your house is different than me living in your house. If I live in my house, that house is a familiar place. That house is full of memories and also something that has a strong influence on what I do, how I do it, and where I go. It’s amazing how many things you have to take out of in a house before you go anywhere on a trip.
When the Psalmist was saying you have been our dwelling place, he meant the nation of Israel had relied heavily upon the Lord. His laws, His teachings, His mind, were prevalent in their lives. They did not defer to their own understanding. Instead, they sought the Lord through His Word, through His law, through the means of going before God in the Tabernacle and later the Temple. God was not ceremonial. They did not call Him in for special occasions. He was the source of their being and the directions for their lives. To cut off any relationship with God from their total lives was abandonment of His blessings and of His good will toward them.
Today, we see many who do not want to acknowledge this protective hand of God in our nation’s heritage; yet, I believe this Psalm speaks to us about where we are because later, in verse seven, it talks about us being consumed by God’s anger and wrath if we do not walk with Him and follow Him. In verse 10 it talks about our days being short compared to all eternity, and that God will satisfy us with His mercy if we will turn to Him and rely on Him the way our forefathers have. Verse 17 notes God is establishing His work in us and through us. Truly, we could say that God has done this in America, for we see the feeble efforts of just a few people to establish a permanent colony in the new world and how it has grown and mushroomed to be the nation that we are today as a superpower.
Where does our relationship with God as our dwelling place fit into his picture? I think it has center stage in all that we say and do. For God’s law and God’s Word have reigned supremely throughout our history up until the last half-century. We have been a very strong, devoutly religious people and have had a faith that is strongly reliant upon God -- similar to Israel’s in that God has been our dwelling place. However, there are many today who do not want you to know these truths.
Following are 10 statements that you will never hear in the media, but are historically accurate and truly biblical statements about what we are to be doing as a nation and how our nation has a Godly heritage.
I. THE FIRST COLONISTS CAME HERE SEEKING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FOUNDED THIS COUNTRY ON PRINCIPLES FROM THE BIBLE.
That is very obvious when you read the Mayflower Compact, which has been reworded in some classrooms so as to leave out the word “In the Name of God and for the Advancement of the Christian Religion.” James Kennedy said the Pilgrims and the Puritans coming to New England was a church relocation project. They could not worship freely in England. Pilgrims especially did not want to be a part of the established Church of England and the Puritans gave up because of the corruption and the many vestiges of Catholicism they still say in the State Church at that time.
They did not leave their religious faith behind. If anything, then the New World strengthened their resolve to be devoted to God in such a way that He was the center of their being. They taught the Word of God to their children and they governed according to God’s Word in all that they did.
Patrick Henry: “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. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
Daniel Webster: “Lastly, our ancestors establish their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits…Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens…”
II. OUR FIRST SCHOOLS TAUGHT A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW.
That’s very easy, all you have to do is trace the history of the Ivy League Schools and also the many ways that even young children were taught to read the Bible before they were taught to read anything else. The New England Primer teaches us of scripture verses to go with the alphabet. This Biblical Worldview was prevalent in the lives of the first settlers of this country and those who eventually became our Founding Fathers so that we find many, many writings similar to the language and the illustrations that are used in the Bible. It is very interesting, the departure these Ivy League Schools have had from their heritage. Some do not want to really know about their heritage and others really don’t care, saying that we are in today and that was yesterday. However, had it not been for the founding of these schools on Christian principles, there would be no such school today.
The Northwest Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, Article III: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.”
III. OUR FOUNDING FATHERS HAD A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW AND HEAVILY RELIED ON GOD’S INFLUENCE IN THEIR LIFE.
This is evident also when you consider that the First Continental Congress broke out in a prayer meeting, read the book of Deuteronomy, many passages about if they were to go to war against the British. We also find a four emphases in the Declaration of Independence that affirm our rights are inalienable that come from God and their direct statement that they had a firm reliance upon the Creator; as well as appealing to the creator of the universe and to be governed by the laws of nature’s God which was only referring to God being the Creator.
These statements cannot be erased from the historical record. Many atheists and secularists pride themselves on the Constitution not having references to God in them. But again, all we have to do is point to the world view that these men had that signed it. Benjamin Franklin, who was not known as a devout Christian said, "God rules in the affairs of men and that nothing falls to the earth without His knowledge." Freedom of Religion was established at the Constitution as well as an understanding that the nation they were founding was a nation that had been dependent on God and His moral law for great victories.
George Washington: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason, as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme being to refer to.”
IV. CHURCHES HAD UNPARALLELED INFLUENCE IN THE COLONIES AND OUR NEW NATION.
We can see this because of the primary intent of the people who came over here, settling this nation as we have it. We see great revivals breaking out in the time of the great awakening. Preachers of the Gospel, like George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Edwards, preaching God’s Word unhindered and very influential in the communities. The church in most communities, was the most important institution that is still the way it should be instead of the forgotten group of religious folks that do there thing on Sunday.
When I say that churches had unparalleled influence in going back to the founding fathers, most of them had their higher education from these Ivy League Schools, which at the time trained only ministers to preach the gospel. It would be ridiculous to say that these principles did not influence our Founding Fathers as they came to this document that we know as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
V. MORAL CHARACTER WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST TESTS OF FITNESS FOR PUBLIC OFFICE.
All we have to do is look at some of the statements that were made concerning those who should run for public office in the colonies and later the states. This, by the way, did not change when we moved from colonies to a. nation. Most of the new states required those running for office to be a practicing church member, a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and someone who exemplified a virtuous life. They felt an atheist, immoral person or non-religious person did not have the ability to govern because of their central nature being predominant and causing them to have moral failures. Moral character was such a great aspiration that churches up until the 1820s and even 30s had election sermons, in which before the people were sworn into the public office, the pastor would remind them of their duties under God in these election sermons. Then they would go to the courthouse and be sworn in as people that got a place in office that is influentially prevalent in their lives.
James Madison: “We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; 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.”
VI. BIBLICAL EDUCATION AND MORAL VALUES WERE TAUGHT IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
There was no separation or distinction between religious instruction and getting a well-rounded education. In fact, there is no well-rounded education without religious instruction, regardless of what people say. It is such a disheartening thing today to see families who deliberately try to keep their children away from religious influences. These families are going to pay the price big time when they see their children’s marriages break up, their lives be miserable, and their children turn into folks that will have frustration and problems because they ignored the greatest thing on the earth and that is a relationship with God.
Therefore, biblical education meant let children learn the Bible stories. It also meant that they looked at the 10 Commandments as not an option, but something that we aspire to, and showed us that we had broken God’s moral law and He has forgiven us in salvation through Christ.
McCollum v. Board of Education (1948): “Traditionally, organized education in the Western world was Church education. It could hardly be otherwise when the education of children was primarily study of the Word and the ways of God. Even in the Protestant countries, where there was a less close identification of Church and State, the basis of education was largely the Bible, and its chief purpose inculcation of piety.”
Daniel Webster: “If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be. If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy.”
Continental Congress ordered 20,000 Bibles for American troops: “The use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great that your committee refers the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, the Committee recommends that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different parts of the States of the Union.”
VII. RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN WORSHIP WAS UNINHIBITED IN THE MILITARY.
General George Washington commanded our first army. His first order was that military chaplains be appointed for every regiment, that profanity be abolished from all of the army and there be penalties imposed upon that, and also that each soldier be an attendant at religious worship held by these chaplains. Can you imagine this being an imposed upon by military today?
The recent battle over the use of praying in Jesus’ name, proving we’ve come a long way in the military from these humble beginnings. But the type of religious influence that was in the military seemed to have spread and get confidence to an army that was over righted and which was such an underdog that many believed the war would last for about six months and then be squashed, that the colonies would again go back under British rule. This was proved wrong because of the brilliant tactics used by George Washington. But also remember Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge and the strong religious influences that came during this time. I have in my possession a document stating that even a chaplain baptized George Washington by immersion during the Revolutionary War. This cannot be verified 100%, but it does help us to see the strong religious influence that was in our military, inseparable from the spirit of victory that was in our first continental army.
VIII. OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AS CREATOR AND CHRIST AS REDEEMER PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN OUR NATION’S FOUNDING DOCUMENTS.
We already noted that the Declaration of Independence has four direct statements related to our freedoms coming from God as a gift. Also, the Constitution grants religious liberty for us to preach the gospel in many ways and with out a government restricting us from doing so. It is very evident that these founding documents were influenced heavily by biblical thinking and the two predominant philosophers and law and judicial authorities of the day was John Locke and Blackstone’s commentaries on the law. Both Locke and Blackstone relied heavily on Scripture for their thoughts and truths.
Remember that the Founding Fathers had been trained in schools devoted to the training of ministers. One of the Founding Fathers, John Witherspoon, was a pastor and president of Princeton University. Also note that this reliance upon God alluded to in the Constitution and directly stated in the Declaration of Independence was designed to give our nation a Theo-centric focus.
Many today who would like to believe that the establishment clause kicks God out of any government organization, do not understand exactly what that meant. Instead of having a state church in many European countries where people are forced to become a part of, our country has granted religious freedom for us to worship as we see fit. In this environment, great movements of God have thrived because of peoples voluntarily choosing to associate with whatever religious bodies they wished to and because of this unrestricted religious liberty, we’ve had the first and second Great Awakenings under Whitefield, Edwards, and Finney. D.L. Moody, and his crusades as well as Billy Sunday, and in recent years, Billy Graham, have been afforded this great freedom to preach the gospel in which other countries would not have allowed them to do that for it would be contrary in France especially, to the Catholic religion and their doctrine. Therefore, we must understand that these documents were designed to not only allow the influence of God to pervade our society, but to insure religious freedom from the time of inception to the present day.
Thomas Jefferson: “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 the gift of God?"
Lincoln’s statement to Reverend Byron Sunderland:The ways of God are mysterious and profound beyond all comprehension—‘Who by searching can find Him out?’ God only knows the issue of this business. He has destroyed nations from the map of history for their sins. Nevertheless, my hopes prevail generally above my fears for our Republic. The times are dark, the spirits of ruin are abroad in all their power, and the mercy of God alone can save us.”
IX. THE MAJORITY OF OUR PRESIDENTS HAVE HAD A STRONG RELIANCE ON GOD, AND SOUGHT HIS GUIDANCE THROUGH HIS WORD AND IN PRIVATE DEVOTIONS.
We are cognizant of the fact that President Washington had a strong and deep devotional life in which he sought God’s guidance in all that He did. His religious influence was very well-known. He began the statement of putting his hand on the Bible and swearing in ceremoniously as president and then saying so help me God. Other presidents have had a nominal religious faith and then in a moment of national crisis, turned to God in a deeper way. For instance, James Kennedy believes that Abraham Lincoln was not a believer until the middle of the Civil War, where he had a conversion experience. When he was assassinated, he was ready to meet the Lord. There have been other presidents like John Quincy Adams, who championed the cause of anti-slavery through biblical principles, James Garfield who was an ordained minister when he became president and had actually just conducted a series of evangelistic services prior to being sworn in as president of the United States. William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, had a deep abiding faith in the Lord and religious influence. Woodrow Wilson is buried at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. A noteworthy influence to me is Franklin D. Roosevelt leading a public prayer on national TV while our troops stormed the beaches or Normandy. How often have you seen a president do this in recent years? Any president who prayed on TV today would be assailed by the press as interjecting religion into our society. When Roosevelt did it, (who by the way is a hero for most democrats), it was looked upon as not only normal, but as a necessity with our troops lives on the line. And so it goes. Today, George Bush has said he is a born-again Christian, relies on God, talks with God, and those who criticize Bush say he embodies a form of religious bigotry against all people of faith.
X. COURT RULINGS ALWAYS FAVORED RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN SOCIETY AND OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD AS REVEALED IN SCRIPTURE.
In recent decades, we’ve had a strange phenomenon that’s happened in this country. The liberal elite and people who are against religion in society and Biblical moral values have gone from taking cases before the people for a vote or even the legislative vote to courts that are very liberal in their orientation. Such instances today are the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, the Massachusetts state supreme court, which they legalized gay marriage and other New England states who legalize civil unions between homosexual couples.
This is really a tragedy in itself, but the other side of the tragedy is that we have the Ninth Circuit Court saying that the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “under God” is unconstitutional. We have other courts that are removing religious symbols, like the Mount Soledad Cross in San Diego. It seems like the judiciary system has declared war on religion in America.
Therefore, we need to understand the roots of what happened in our first few decades of governing and how our government was set up to look at the courts. The judiciary was only a branch of our federal government and was meant to be checked by the president and by the legislature, and not to run rampant over everyone else. John Marshall, one of the first Supreme Court Justices, was a deeply religious man and all the court decisions favored unrestricted religious freedom for anybody and actually asserted the fact that Christianity was the pervading religious influence in the foundation of our country and its maintenance. With these statements, it would appear that we are very far off course with what we have decided the courts should be doing.
Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892): “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian. No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.”
If we are a religious people let religious liberty ring free and may we return as a nation back to the God of our Fathers and not have to apologize to anyone for our reliance on Him. Our future destiny as a nation depends on it.
All Quotations taken from: America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations William J. Federer ed., St. Louis: Americsearch, Inc.