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Faith of our Fathers


JUNE 29, 2003

Today we are celebrating the importance of family. In five days the birth of our country 227 years ago by the faith of our Founding Fathers. Personally, I place the Fourth of July, the day of our declaration of independence from the rule of an earthly king, right behind Christmas and Easter with the birth and resurrection of our heavenly King. And yet the three days cannot be considered separately. For Christmas and Easter deal with our spiritual heritage and eternal home, and the Fourth of July concerns our civil heritage and temporal home. These two birthrights give us the freedom today as a family celebrating our faith and heritage. This thought is not original with me. In fact, John Quincy Adams our sixth president of the United States asked and then answered this question in a speech he gave on the Fourth of July 1837:

"Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissoluble linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel Dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission on earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?"

We have gathered here this morning because we love our family and our country. We cherish the principles upon which the family and country were founded. But what makes a country? Is it land or natural resources? Is it infrastructure or government? No, it is its people. People who have come from all over the world seeking freedom. Freedom from all kinds of persecution: religious, ethnic, political and philosophical. Why did God create families? Families are the basic social order of nations by which God's Truth is propagated displaying His eternal love for all of mankind through the Gospel of His Son, our Lord and Savior.

Let us pray... Father may the thoughts and words that I share today, be of Your Spirit. May they have an impact well beyond the time that we spend together this day. May You be glorified. Amen

Most of us remember the stories in school how a handful of pilgrims left Holland because of the religious persecution they received in England and sailed for the Promised Land to a new beginning. Or the Puritans who settled in the New England Colonies to practice their faith. How they stayed to themselves to keep their religion pure. And it remained that way for approximately a 100 years into the 1700's.I had always wondered how such a diverse group of men could have come together and agreed in unity of principle and belief and write such great documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States of America including the Bill of Rights. These men were diverse in religion. In a letter John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813, he stated:

"Who composed that army of fine young fellows...there were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants and House Protestants..."

They were diverse in occupation. They were diverse in social standing. Yet they were willing to stand together and sacrificed their fortunes and lives, which many did just as the disciples of Jesus. What caused these men to be so brave against so great of odds? How could they be so bold in their words and vision? They were imperfect men like you and me. They had slaves and women were not considered equal. Yet when they wrote the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence they said:

"...We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to effect their safety and happiness..."

From whence came this faith? This wisdom and understanding of human nature that has brought us through 227 years and over 280,000,000 people? Our Founding Fathers were imperfect but they feared God and as His Word states in Proverbs chapter two, beginning at verse three:

"Yes, if you cry out for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding...then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth comes knowledge and understanding."

Our Founding Fathers were imperfect, but they were looking to the promise of a future just as our father Abraham, when he was promised by God concerning his descendants and final home. For you see just over thirty years prior many of the conditions that afflict our nation and families today were prevalent in the Original Thirteen American Colonies. By the middle 1700's there were over two million people living along the East Coast in the country and cities. People from all over the world were coming to America to find freedom from persecution and seeking their fortune. In fact it was very prosperous times. Universities were being established in all of the colonies. Knowledge was increasing and replacing piety in the society. Churches had been built housing the many different denominations. There was a form of godliness but few were coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. There was a lack of family worship and prayer. Fathers were placing their emphasis on work and the gaining of material wealth. There was a serious moral decline. Drunkenness and prostitution were rampant. Filthy language was heard everywhere in the streets. They were a confidant and self-assured group. They wanted nothing, needed nothing, least of all God. They believed in "Manifest Destiny", another form of humanism.

Does this sound familiar? When I think of the words of the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence which say,

"...that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."

Two thoughts impact me: today we have reversed the order. It is now pursuit of happiness, liberty and life (and life only as long as it doesn't interfere with the pursuit of happiness). I am also reminded of the word of God as written by Paul in Romans chapter one beginning with verse 21:

"...Because although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools...therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator...and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things not fitting..."

Could the great documents of our Founding Fathers upon which this nation was founded come from a group of men living such a lifestyle or having such a belief system? The answer is a resounding no! What result could come from a society such as this? There are only two possible outcomes: deeper depravity and judgement from a holy, sovereign God or turning to God and seeking forgiveness and receiving God's blessing. In II Chronicles 7:14 the Word of God says:

"If my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

And this is exactly what happened! Beginning in 1740 and lasting more than five years, a great revival took place in the thirteen colonies in America. It is the period known as the "Great Awakening". It was a time when God poured out His Holy Spirit on America. It is recorded in history that as ships approached the coast of America; men and women were so overcome by their sinfulness that they begged God for mercy before they ever reached the shore. It all began when preachers, called itinerants, traveled on horseback up and down the East Coast of the thirteen colonies preaching the judgement of God and the need for repentance. As the message spread more and more people came out to hear. It was a time when preachers like George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent and Eleazor Wheelock preached to 20,000 and 30,000 at one time. Not all the men came with a humble heart; many came to scoff and ridicule. But the power of the Holy Spirit was so great upon them, many begged for forgiveness. It was not uncommon for over 20% of a town to be converted from the messages of the itinerant preachers who had no churches of their own. Their preaching influenced the great preacher, Jonathan Edwards, and soon after Eleazor Wheelock had preached in his church, Jonathan Edwards preached his fiery sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". It was a time when men woke up and realized their sinfulness and repented of their sins. It is recorded that up to 50,000 people were added to the New England churches out of a total population of 300,000 from 1740 to 1742. (There has only been one other time in American history when God poured out His Holy Spirit with such impact. and it is known as the "Second Great Awakening" and took place in the early 1800's throughout the new frontier, west of the Appalachians as men struck out to seek their destiny.)

It was during the first Great Awakening and shortly thereafter that many of our founding fathers were growing up and formulating their beliefs and principles. They were being taught by their parents and understood the importance of religion and more specifically the important role that Christianity plays in the prosperity of government and society as a whole. They understood that you cannot separate faith and beliefs from politics or any other aspect of life for that matter. They understood what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 5:13-16,

"You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (This is precisely what is happening to Christians today in our own country because we, who call ourselves Christians, have lost our flavor. we have left our first love and chased after the world and everything it possesses.) You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven."

That is why George Washington stated in his farewell address:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars."

John Adams the Second President of the United States said:

"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Thomas Jefferson the Third President of the United States in his Second Inaugural Address said:

"I shall need the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His Providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power..."

Many modern-day, revisionist historians say some strange things about Thomas Jefferson. Everyone agrees that he was the author of the Declaration of Independence. But they have taken a little of what he said and distorted it and have ignored much of his actions to promote morality and religion. When he became president, he also became the superintendent of the public school system in Washington, D. C. As the superintendent, he said that the two primary textbooks that would be used in the classroom would be the Bible and the Watt's Hymnal. Being a practical man, Thomas Jefferson determined that the Capitol Building would be an excellent place to hold a worship service on Sunday, since it was not in use that day. He regularly attended worship services in the Capitol Building and requested that the US Marine Band play the hymns of worship. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to live in the White House for two full terms. If you have ever been to our nation's Capitol, you will know that the White House and the Capitol are separated by approximately one mile. It took a considerable amount of time to saddle a horse and ride the distance to the Capitol; so he started Sunday morning worship services in the Treasury and State Department buildings as well.

He was a man of civility and it was his desire that all citizens of the United States be schooled in civility if they were to be a good citizen of their country. This included the native American Indian. He believed that if the Indians were taught the Words of Christ as quoted in the Bible, they would become better citizens. So he took out all the words in the New Testament attributed to Christ and incorporated them in a pamphlet and distributed it to the Indians. This became known as the Jefferson Bible.

James Madison, fourth president and Father of the Constitution, said:

"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions 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."

I could go on for several hours not only quoting the above mentioned men, but others like Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Noah Webster, Daniel Webster, Zephaniah Swift, Dr. Benjamin Rush, John Quincy Adams, Robert Morris, Roger Sherman, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Harrison and Patrick Henry...just to name a few. These men were prolific writers...1,000's of documents, letters, speeches and public records are available to the public today if we will only take the time to read them. All understood the difference between civil law and most religions when compared to Christianity. Civil Law focuses on stopping the act of murder or meeting out punishment for murder. Christianity focuses on stopping the hate and anger which causes murder. Civil Law and most religions try to prevent the act of adultery, but Christianity attacks the internal lust, which results in the external behavior. The strongest civil code is impotent against malicious behavior unless the heart itself can be restrained. Today, it would take an individual devoting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year over 2,000 years to read all of the civil laws that were passed in 1999 alone in the United States.

If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you may need to do two things today:

"If my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."


"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Almighty God is waiting to pour out His Holy Spirit on the families of America today and it is Christians like you and me who hold the key.

If you don't know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then cry out to God for mercy and ask Jesus to come into your heart. God will forgive you because Jesus paid for your sins and mine when he died on the cross. Today Almighty God is waiting to put His Spirit in you so that your light, the light which is the love of Christ, will shine before men and glorify your father in heaven. Today we have a rich family heritage and rich national heritage. May we be bold to protect both and let our light so shine before men and glorify our Heavenly Father.

I close with the prayer of Peter Marshall, former Chaplain of the United States Senate as delivered on the eve of the Fourth of July in 1947. He prayed:

"God of our fathers, whose almighty hand hath made and preserved our nation, grant that our people may understand what it is they celebrate. May they remember how bitterly our freedom was won, the down payment that was made for it, the installments that have been made since this Republic was born, and the price that must be paid for our liberty. May freedom be seen not as the right to do as we please but as the opportunity to please, to do what is right. May it ever be understood that our liberty is under God and can be found nowhere else. May our faith be something that is not merely stamped on our coins, but expressed in our lives. Let us, as a nation, not be afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way, as the only nation on earth that came into being 'for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith'. We know that we shall be true to the pilgrim dream when we are true to the God they worshiped. To the extent that America honors Thee, wilt Thou bless America, and keep her true as Thou has kept her free, and make her good as Thou has made her rich. Amen."