America’s Christian Heritage
America’s Christian Heritage
The History and Founding Of America
In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in search of another route to India, and stumbled upon the continent of North America. He later wrote: "For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfilment of what Isaiah prophesied... (Columbus's translation of ISAIAH 51:1 says, “The far distant islands wait for my law.” He believed this verse was his calling)."
After his discovery was made known, many people, including the pilgrims, made their way to the New World. The main cause for their worldwide pilgrimage was the search for freedom to worship God. In November of 1620, the first pilgrims spotted Plymouth, Massachusetts from their ship, the Mayflower. Their leader, William Bradford, wrote, “They [the Pilgrim Fathers] fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.” These pioneering immigrants to America strongly believed the Word of God and founded their laws and principles upon it.
By the late 1600's, the English colonies started to develop, and freedom of religion continued to spread. In 1681, William Penn, who was converted to the ‘Sect of Friends’ or ‘Quakers’ (see Christian History of Britain) as a young man, received a land grant from King Charles II, consisting of all the land between Maryland and New York. The area was named Pennsylvania after its founder. In his famous ‘Frame of Government’ he writes, “that all persons…having children… shall cause such to be instructed in reading and writing, so that they may be able to read the Scriptures…” His emphasis on Christians working together in love was demonstrated in his founding of the city of Philadelphia, “The City of Brotherly Love”. To the Quaker, religion consisted not of a Sunday ceremonial ritual, but as the daily basis and inspiration for life.
However, in the 1700s colonists started to deeply realise their desire to have an independent nation. These men had come so far, physically as well as mentally, that they weren’t about to compromise. The result was the American War of Independence. In 1776, American revolutionary leader Patrick Henry stated: "It cannot be emphasised 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.” On 4th of July, 1776, the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, which stated America’s separation from England. A few years later in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, and The United States of America was, for the first time, declared her own free nation: “ONE NATION UNDER GOD.”
This fulfilled the prophecy to Joseph in GENESIS 48:19 that his son Manasseh would become a great people, inheriting the “desolate heritages” (ISAIAH 49:8).
The first president of the United States was George Washington, a godly man who had been saved miraculously during the battle of Monongahela. He was given a vision of the future from the Lord for this great nation.
Revivals and American Evangelists
Back in the early 1700's church leaders feared that many colonists’ dedication to their religion was declining and that the religious commitment of previous generations had been lost. It was because of this concern that a few men sought God even more. Jonathan Edwards and British minister, George Whitefield, were two of the most important leaders of the Great Awakening.
What historians call "the first Great Awakening" can best be described as a revitalisation of religious piety that swept through the American colonies between the 1730's and the 1770's. The earliest manifestations of the American phase of this phenomenon appeared amongst Presbyterians in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Religious enthusiasm quickly spread from the Presbyterians of the Middle Colonies to the Congregationalists (Puritans) and Baptists of New England. By the 1740's, the clergymen of these churches were conducting revivals throughout that region.
In emotionally charged sermons, preachers like Jonathan Edwards, evoked vivid, terrifying images of the utter corruption of human nature and the terrors awaiting the unrepentant soul in hell. For instance; Edwards' famous description of the sinner as a loathsome spider suspended by a slender thread over a pit of seething brimstone in his best known sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Approximately a hundred years later, in the early 1800’s, Americans experienced the Second Great Awakening. One of the most influential leaders at this time was Charles G. Finney. Finney would hold meetings that would last for days, persuading people that they were responsible for their own salvation. Although many old time Protestants disagreed with these new ideas of Finney’s, this awakening crossed America like a wildfire and thousands of souls were saved.
In July of 1865 in London, England, William Booth founded the Salvation Army. A few years later, in October of 1879, Lieutenant Eliza Shirley of the Salvation Army left England to join her parents who had migrated to America earlier in search of work. She held meetings that were so successful that in March of 1880 General William Booth sent Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven women officers to the United States to formalise the effort. Their initial street meeting was held on the dockside at Battery Park in New York City. In only three years, operations had expanded into California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
On the 1st of January 1901, one of the greatest revivals started at a Bible college in Topeka, Kansas, where the outpouring of the Holy Spirit started, as described in ACTS chapter 2. This revival soon spread and sparked off perhaps one of the most amazing revivals in American history, the Azusa Street Revival, which started in an old building in the industrial part of the city of Los Angeles, California. Many people traveled from all over the world and were baptised in the Holy Spirit, and then were happy to take this fire back to their own lands.
Many more preachers such as Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson, and William Branham could be mentioned, but perhaps one of the more famous of the ‘healing evangelists’ was Kathryn Kuhlman. Her vivid sermons captured millions as she preached throughout the U.S. during the 1930’s. Although her first sermon was in a dirty pool hall, Kathryn’s name became well known. She gave up her entire life for Christ and was willing to even sleep in empty poultry barns while she traveled, holding large tent meetings. Through her ministry, millions of souls were both converted and healed during a time when disease inhabited the land.
The Corruption of the United States Today
To bring the United States out of its corruption there must be two reversals. The first and most obvious one must occur in our national public stance toward God. On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court ruled to remove school prayer and therefore prohibited students from praying these simple lines: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee and beg Thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country." As a result of the Supreme Court's current ban on the acknowledgment of God, prayer in schools and the use of His principles in public, which can be seen as a direct challenge to Him, our nation has been subjected to severe consequences such as a huge increase in teenage pregnancies, divorce rates and violent crime.
The second reversal must centre on the restoration of the personal benefits derived from living by Godly principles. For example, when the Court ruled that students might not use the Ten Commandments, nor study the Scriptures, nor learn about sexual abstinence, etc., the separation of these teachings caused personal, individual harm to those students, as forewarned in DEUTERONOMY 6:24. For example, the rate of youth suicide remained relatively unchanged during the years from 1946 to the School Prayer decision in 1962. But in the years since, suicides among teenagers and young adults have increased 253%, or an average of 10.5% per year.
In the decades immediately preceding the Court rulings (the 1920s to 1950's), Christians en masse had voluntarily removed themselves from the political, social, and legal arenas. Whenever the Godly depart from any arena, their own godly values depart with them. A person in office always legislates according to his own personal beliefs and convictions, and herein is the wisdom of PROVERBS 29:2 made evident:
"When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan."
We must regain the conviction that Biblical principles are vital to national success, and we must be willing to pursue their reinstatement. In recent decades, we have wrongly allowed the very principles, which produced morality and virtue, and thus national stability, to be restricted in public life. We need once again to recognize the truth so well understood by George Washington that:
“The propitious [favorable] smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”
We must become convinced of the principle expressed by Abraham Lincoln and then accept the civic responsibilities implied by his statement that:
"…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 transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognise the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord..."
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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 will heal their land” (2 CHRONICLES 7:14).