Historic Revisionism: The Founders Believed They Built This Nation On Biblical Principles

The Words of Dr. Benjamin Rush

One of the battles in our modern world is over the role that Judea/Christian principles played in the founding of this nation.  According to many, especially those on the Left of the American political spectrum (i.e. the Progressive movement), our founders intended this to be a secular nation.  These people will argue that our founders never connected the Bible with the government they designed.  This is nothing short of historic revisionism.  The truth is very different.  If we really want to know the Truth about what our founders believed, all we have to do is read the words of the men who framed this nation’s government.  They not only discussed their ideas and intentions with each other, they were consciously aware that they were writing to their posterity at the same time.  One such man was Dr. Benjamin Rush.  He was one of the most famous and beloved figure at the time of our founding; signed the Declaration of Independence; was present at the Constitutional Convention, and is often considered the father of American medicine.  Here are just a few of his thoughts on the role the Bible played in the founding of this nation.

“Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy.”
Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations!”
The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, pp. 165-166.

“I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker.

If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary. The perfect morality of the gospel rests upon the doctrine which, though often controverted has never been refuted: I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God.”
Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.

(Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 93-94.)

“[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.  Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”  

— Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence said.

“Surely future generations wouldn’t try to take the Bible out of schools. In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, if we were to remove the Bible from schools, I lament that we could be wasting so much time and money in punishing crime and would be taking so little pains to prevent them.”

— Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration, member of Continental Congress, founder of 5 universities, in a “Defense of the Use of The Bible in Schools”, 1791

Now, you may have a different opinion, but I am inclined to believe that this man not only believed the Bible played a role in the founding of this nation, I’m convinced they he believed it was necessary to the maintenance of a just, free and self-governing society.  Furthermore, I reject the idea that this man would have given his consent to any attempt to design a secular nation divorced from these Biblical principles.  So, for me, the words of Dr. Benjamin Rush are at odds with the narrative that argues our founders intentionally designed a secular nation.

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