• Samuel at Gilgal

    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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Christianity’s Influence On Colonial Government

American Christian Rulers by Reverend Edward J. Giddings

Mark David Hall, Ph.D., is Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University. He is the author or co-editor of eight books, including The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church–State Relations in the American Founding (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Press, 2009) and The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009). In a recent article titled “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” he writes:

Few doubt that Puritans were serious Christians attempting to create, in the words of Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, “a shining city upon a hill” (a reference to Matthew 5:14). Puritans separated church and state, but they clearly thought the two institutions should work in tandem to support, protect, and promote true Christianity. . . .

It is certainly the case that colonists were attracted to the New World by economic opportunity (in New England as well as in the South), and yet even in the southern colonies the protection and promotion of Christianity was more important than many authors assume. For instance, Virginia’s 1610 legal code begins:

Whereas his Majesty, like himself a most zealous prince, has in his own realms a principal care of true religion and reverence to God and has always strictly commanded his generals and governors, with all his forces wheresoever, to let their ways be, like his ends, for the glory of God….

The first three articles of this text go on to state that the colonists have embarked on a “sacred cause,” to mandate regular church attendance, and to proclaim that anyone who speaks impiously against the Trinity or who blasphemes God’s name will be put to death.

Early colonial laws and constitutions such as the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and Massachusetts Body of Liberties are filled with such language—and in some cases, they incorporate biblical texts wholesale. Perhaps more surprisingly, tolerant, Quaker Pennsylvania was more similar to Puritan New England than many realize. The Charter of Liberties and Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania (1681) begins by making it clear that God has ordained government, and it even quotes Romans 13 to this effect. . . .

An extensive survey of early colonial constitutions and laws reveals many similar provisions. As well, at least nine of the 13 colonies had established churches, and all required officeholders to be Christians—or, in some cases, Protestants. Quaker Pennsylvania, for instance, expected officeholders to be “such as possess faith in Jesus Christ.”

If one is to understand the story of the United States of America, it is important to have a proper appreciation for its Christian colonial roots. By almost any measure, colonists of European descent who settled in the New World were serious Christians whose constitutions, laws, and practices reflected the influence of Christianity.

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 5 – OF PROVIDENCE

Westminster Confession of Faith

In 1643, the English “Long Parliament” convened an Assembly of Divines at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to advise Parliament on how to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship. One chapter of the Confession follows:


1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

3. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.

4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

6. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasions of sin; and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

7. As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.

The Crooked Things Of Life

There are problems that occur in everyone’s lives that make you feel that circumstances are just not right or fair. Sometimes you feel you have just managed to get through a difficult time when suddenly you are blind-sided by an even greater problem. These are the “crooked things” of life. Rev. Maurice Roberts shares more on this topic with us:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

Crooked things occur in our lives, don’t they? What’s meant by ‘crooked things’? Well, it means problems we can’t understand, and we’ve all got those, haven’t we? Haven’t you got problems in your life? You may say, “Why did my dear husband have to die?” “Why did my dear wife have to get ill?” “Why is my child laid in bed?” “Why has my uncle got to go to hospital?” “Why have I lost my health?” “Why did they have that car smash and their bodies are now ruined for the rest of their lives?” These are crooked things. . . .

Let me tell you about the Book of Job. Job was a rich man. Everything was going fine for years and suddenly everything went wrong. His children were killed, his house was smashed, his health broke down, and all the rest of it. It couldn’t have been much worse. And he was sitting in the dust, scraping himself because he was covered with boils from head to foot. Now that’s a tremendous change from being rich and powerful and influential, to being ill and lost property, lost money, lost children and so on. And he couldn’t understand it. It was a tremendous problem. “Why has God done this to me?” was the question. And maybe you have a question like that. But when you read the Book of Job you’ll see God was working everything out wisely for Job’s good. So Job had twice as much in the end, twice as much as he had before. And that’s what God does to his people; he brings them down so as to bring them up again, higher than ever. . . .

[T]here are plenty of people, who have known the gospel for years, but maybe the only way God will get you to listen to the gospel is when he puts you in a sickbed, or you’re carted out in an ambulance. . . . And there in the quietness of a hospital ward you say to yourself: “Am I going to die?” And then maybe you’ll see the need you have of Christ and the gospel and eternal life, because many people die, and they die without Christ and they go into eternal death. I hope you know that, dearest friends.

So this is what God means here. “I will bring them through crooked things and make them straight for them.” You know, the cross of Christ is a crooked thing. . . . And the cross of Christ is crooked to so many people. They say, “Why did Jesus Christ have to die? He was such a wonderful man. . . . It’s a crooked thing, you see. They can’t understand the cross. And the explanation is that God cursed Him for your sake and my sake. He died on the cross for our sake. He died in the room of the wicked – the just dying for the unjust, suffering our penalty, that we might be saved. That’s the wonderful thing about the gospel, that’s the amazing thing. God is making this crooked thing to be straightforward. (Sermon: “God’s Grace to Blind Sinners”)

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