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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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American Independence And Prayer

First Continental Congress In Prayer

Despite what American History revisionists might have you believe, prayer was of singular importance in the American struggle for independence. The First Continental Congress was comprised of delegates from all the colonies except Georgia. They met for the first time in September 1774. John Adams wrote a letter to his wife in which he described the spiritual aspect of this first meeting as the Revolutionary War for Independence lay ahead:

“When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments — some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists — that we could not join in the same act of worship.

“Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might read prayers to Congress the next morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative.

“Accordingly, next morning the Rev. Duche appeared with his Episcopal vestments and read the 85th Psalm. I never saw a greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning.

George Washington was kneeling there, alongside him Patrick Henry, James Madison, and John Hancock. By their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port was closed and occupied by British troops].

“And who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine help. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacifist Quakers of Philadelphia.”

John Adams: Hero Of Liberty And Man Of Faith

FLAG OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

John Adams (October 30, 1735-July 4, 1826), was the 2nd President of the United States, 1797-1801, being the first president to live in the White House; established the Library of Congress and the Department of the Navy; Vice-President under George Washington, 1789-97; a member of the First and Second Continental Congress, 1774, 1775; a signer of the Declaration of Independence, 1776; distinguished for having personally urged Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration, as well as for having recommended George Washington as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army; authored the Constitution of Massachusetts in 1780; U.S. Minister to France, 1783, having signed the Treaty of

John Adams

Paris, along with John Jay and Benjamin Franklin, which officially ended the Revolutionary War; U.S. Minister to Great Britain, 1784-88, during which time he greatly influenced the American states to ratify the Constitution by writing a three-volume work entitled, A Defense of the Constitution of the Government of the United States.

On February 22, 1756, John Adams made the entry in his diary, his idea of a “Utopian Nation”:

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! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God…What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.

On October 11, 1798, President John Adams stated in a letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

On June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote:

The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite….And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.

Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.

You can view the source of this article and read more about the Founding Fathers here. . . .

Liberty Is A Gift From God

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal...

Thomas Jefferson

Quoting Thomas Jefferson:

“Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God?

A Message To Americans From John Adams

John Adams: "the man who at certain point...

John Adams

Posterity,

[Y]ou will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it.

John Adams

Washington On The Foundation Of National Policy

George Washington

Quoting George Washington:

“(T)he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; …the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…” (First Inaugural, April 30 1789)

Patrick Henry On Freedom

Peter F. Rothermel's "Patrick Henry Befor...

Patrick Henry Before the Virginia House of Burgesses

Quoting Patrick Henry:

“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained – we must fight!”

July 4th – A festival Of Freedom!

George Bancroft (1800-1891) was one of America’s foremost historians, titled “The Father of American History” for his groundbreaking efforts in that field. Bancroft was also a high-ranking and noted political figure. Significantly, Bancroft delivered the following oration on the 50th anniversary (07/04/1826) of the Declaration of Independence – the day that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died (although public knowledge of these events was not yet known at the time of this oration). The article that follows is made up of excerpts from that speech:

Our act of celebration begins with God. To the eternal Providence – on Which states depend and by Whose infinite mercy they are prospered – the nation brings its homage and the tribute of its gratitude. From the omnipotent Power Who dwells in the unclouded serenity of being without variableness or shadow of change [James 1:17], we proceed as from the Fountain of Good, the Author of Hope, and the Source of Order and Justice, now that we assemble to commemorate the revolution, the independence, and the advancement of our country!

No sentiments should be encouraged on this occasion but those of patriotism and philanthropy. When the names of our venerated fathers were affixed to the instrument which declared our independence, an impulse and confidence were imparted to all efforts at improvement throughout the world. The festival which we keep is the festival of freedom itself – it belongs not to us only but to man. All the nations of the earth have an interest in it, and humanity proclaims it sacred!

In the name of LIBERTY, therefore, I bid you welcome to the celebration of its jubilee 1 ; in the name of our COUNTRY, I bid you welcome to the recollection of its glories and joy in its prosperity; in the name of HUMANITY, I welcome you to a festival which commemorates an improvement in the social condition; in the name of RELIGION, I welcome you to a profession of the principles of public justice which emanate directly from God. . . .

Thought has been active in our times not with speculative questions but in devising means for improving the social condition. Efforts have been made to diffuse Christianity throughout the world. The cannibal of the South Sea forgets his horrid purpose and listens to the instructions of religion; the light of the Sabbath morn is welcomed by the mild inhabitants of the Pacific islands; and Africa and Australia have not remained unvisited. Colonies which were first established on the Guinea coast for the traffic in slaves have been renewed for the more effectual suppression of that accursed trade.

And what is the cause and the guarantee of our happiness? What but the principles of our Constitution! When our fathers assembled to prepare it, the genius of history admitted them to the secrets of destiny and taught them by the failures of the past to provide for the happiness of future generations. No model was offered them which it seemed safe to imitate; the Constitution established a government on entirely liberal principles [unselfish principles that benefit the general public rather than a few elite] such as the world had never beheld in practice. The sovereignty of the people is the basis of the system. With the people the power resides – both theoretically and practically. The government is a democracy – a determined, uncompromising democracy – administered immediately by the people or by the people’s responsible agents. In all the European treatises on political economy – and even in the state-papers of the Holy Alliance – the welfare of the people is acknowledged to be the object of government. We believe so too. But as each man’s interests are safest in his own keeping, so in like manner the interests of the people can best be guarded by themselves. . . .

We approve of the influence of the religious principle on public not less than on private life, but we hold religion to be an affair between each individual conscience and God, superior to all political institutions and independent of them. Christianity was neither introduced nor reformed by the civil power. And with us the modes of worship are in no wise prescribed by the state. Thus, then, the people governs – and solely; it does not divide its power with a hierarchy, a nobility, or a king. The popular voice is all powerful with us. This is our oracle; this we acknowledge is the voice of God! . . . The interests of the people are the interests of the individuals who compose the people. . . . We give the power to the many [the people] in the hope and to the end that they may use it for their own benefit – that they may always so legislate as to open the fairest career to industry and promote an equality founded on the safe and equitable influence of the laws. We do not fear – we rather invite – the operation of the common motives which influence humanity. . . .

The laws of the land are sacred – they are established by the majority for the general good. Private rights are sacred – the protection of them is the end of law and government. . . .

In possession of complete personal independence, our religious liberty is entire; our press without restrictions; the channels of wealth and honor alike open to all; the cause of intelligence asserted and advanced by the people! In our houses, our churches, our halls of justice, our legislatures – everywhere there is liberty! . . . Soul is breathed into the public administration by the suffrages [votes] of the people, and the aspect of our policy on the world is favorable to universal improvement. . . .

Our service began with God. May we not believe that He Who promises assistance to the humblest of us in our efforts to do His will regards with complacency the advancement of the nation and now from His high abode smiles on us with favoring benignity [kindness]?

Trusting in the Providence of Him, the Universal Father, let the country advance to the glory and prosperity to which – mindful of its exalted privileges – it aspires! Wherever its voice is heard, let it proclaim the message of liberty and speak with the divine energy of truth [and let] the principles of moral goodness [be] consistently followed in its actions! And while the centuries – as they pass – multiply its population and its resources, let it manifest in its whole history a devoted attachment to public virtue, a dear affection for mankind, and the consciousness of its responsibility to the God of nations!

(This oration was taken from David Barton’s book Celebrate Liberty! Famous Patriotic Speeches & Sermons. This book is available here.)

We Must Be Made Alive!

Bishop J. C. Ryle

If you see a man who has been converted and wonderful changes have taken place in his life and manner of living, as a Christian what would you say about this man? Would you say he has reformed his ways? Would you say he has “turned over a new leaf”? No! He has experienced a new birth. There has been a quickening of the dead. These are the right words to use. J. C. Ryle explains why:

“And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

See how sad is the condition of all . . . whose hearts are still the same as in the day they were born. There is a mountain of division between them and heaven. They have yet to “pass from death to life.” (1 John 3:14) Oh, that they did but see and know their danger! Alas, it is one fearful mark of spiritual death, that, like natural death—it is not felt! We lay our beloved ones tenderly and gently in their narrow beds—but they feel nothing of what we do. “The dead,” says the wise man, “know nothing.” (Eccl. 9:5) And this is just the case with dead souls.

See, too, what reason ministers have to be anxious about their congregations. We feel that time is short, and life uncertain. We know that death spiritual is the high road that leads to death eternal. We fear lest any of our hearers should die in their sins, unprepared, unrenewed, impenitent, and unchanged. Oh, marvel not if we often speak strongly and plead with you warmly! We dare not give you flattering titles, amuse you with trifles, say smooth things, and cry “Peace, peace,” when life and death are at stake, and nothing less. The plague is among you. We feel that we stand between the living and the dead. We must and will “use great plainness of speech.” “If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?” (2 Cor. 3:12, 1 Cor. 14:8)

Let me tell you . . . what every man needs who would be saved. He must be quickened and made spiritually alive.

Life is the mightiest of all possessions. From death to life is the mightiest of all changes. And no change short of this will ever avail to fit man’s soul for heaven. Yes! it is not a little mending and alteration—a little cleansing and purifying—a little painting and patching—a little whitewashing and varnishing—a little turning over a new leaf and putting on a new outside that is needed. It is the bringing in of something altogether new—the planting within us of a new nature, a new being—a new principle—a new mind. This alone and nothing less than this, will ever meet the necessities of man’s soul. We need not merely a new skin—but a new heart.

“It is not a little reforming that will save the man, no, nor all the morality in the world, nor all the common graces of God’s spirit, nor the outward change of the life; they will not do, unless we are quickened, and have a new life wrought in us.” (Usher’s Sermons)

To hew a block of marble from the quarry—and carve it into a noble statue; to break up a waste wilderness—and turn it into a garden of flowers; to melt a lump of ironstone—and forgo it into watch-springs—all these are mighty changes. Yet they all come short of the change which every child of Adam requires, for they are merely the same thing in a new form and the same substance in a new shape. But man requires the grafting in of that which he had not before. He needs a change as great as a resurrection from the dead—he must become a new creature. “Old things must pass away, and all things must become new.” He must be “born again, born from above, and born of God.” The natural birth is not a whit more necessary to the life of the body, than is the spiritual birth to the life of the soul. (2 Cor. 5:17, John 3:3)

I know well this is a hard saying. I know the children of this world dislike hearing that they must be born again. It pricks their consciences—it makes them feel they are further off from heaven than they are willing to allow. It seems like a narrow door which they have not yet stooped to enter, and they would gladly make the door wider, or climb in some other way. But I dare not give place by subjection in this matter. I will not foster a delusion, and tell people they only need repent a little, and stir up a gift they have within them, in order to become real Christians. I dare not use any other language than that of the Bible; and I say, in the words which are written for our learning, “We all need to be born again—we are all naturally dead, and must be made alive.”

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