The Next 85 Years (1850 – 1935): America’s Deeply Rooted Christian Heritage, Part 2

John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

In his last Will and Testament (December 1790), Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, proclaimed that “I rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.” Many of our founders left a detailed legacy of their faith in Jesus Christ for us, so we would understand that the America we call our home today was originally formed according to a biblical, Christian worldview.

Our verse this week, and Sam Adam’s testimony, demonstrate that only in Jesus Christ can eternal life through the forgiveness of sins be found. Last week, we examined this truth in the testimony of many leaders in the first 75 years of America’s birth (1776 – 1849). Now we will look at the next 85 years (1850 – 1935) to see how our nation’s leaders continued to rely on the God of the Bible to shape our nation.

In March 1854, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee issued a report explaining why the chaplains and prayers in Congress were perfectly constitutional and, indeed, necessary: “If there be a God who hears prayer — as we believe there is — we submit, that there never was a deliberative body that so eminently needed the fervent prayers of righteous men as the Congress of the United States.”

On March 3, 1863, the US Senate asked President Abraham Lincoln to designate a day “for national prayer and humiliation,”, stating they “devoutly recognized the supreme authority and government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and nations, sincerely believing that no people can prosper without His favor”, and encouraged by “His word to seek Him according to His appointed way, through Jesus Christ.”

April 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating a day of “national humiliation, fasting and prayer,” stating “it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

On February 29, 1892, in the ‘Church of the Holy Trinity vs. the Unites States’ case, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that “America is a Christian nation.”

On November 11,1918, after WW1 ended, President Woodrow Wilson instituted Veterans Day with these words: “It is our custom to turn in the autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His many blessings and mercies to us as a nation, and because God has in His good pleasure given us peace, I declare this day a day of thanksgiving and prayer, to render thanks to God, the Ruler of nations.”

In May 1901, Booker T. Washington, the first black man to have his image on a U.S. coin and stamp, wrote in his autobiography ‘Up from Slavery’: “If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of the Christian life, the Christlike work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last 35 years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian.”

On August 3, 1923, Calvin Coolidge quoted John 15:13 to remind Americans of the price of freedom: “Peace comes only through the establishment of the supremacy of the forces of good. That way lies through sacrifice. ’Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”

On May 25, 1931, in the case of US vs. Macintosh, the U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion stated, “We are a Christian people… according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God.” The dissenting opinion also recognized God, noting, “One cannot speak of religious liberty without belief in supreme allegiance to the will of God.”

On October 6, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt, on the 400th Anniversary of the printing of the Bible, said this: “We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation without reckoning the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity.”

This period in America’s development, from 1850-1935, continues the rich legacy of the previous period we examined last week (1776-1849), which is that America has been a Republic firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #356

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