OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANTS
March 6, 2020
We continue today with a look at John Jay, the first Supreme Court Justice appointed by George Washington.
On April 20, 1794, John Jay is obviously embroiled in issues of great controversy as Chief Justice, and he sends a note to his wife, Sally Jay, to encourage her. He writes, "God's will be done; to him I resign--in him I confide. Do the like. Any other philosophy applicable to this occasion is delusive. Away with it!"
Two years later, on February 14, 1796, John Jay writes to the Rev. Uzal Ogden and says, "I have long been of opinion that the evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds . . ."
A year later in a letter to Jedediah Morse (February 28, 1797) concerning the choice and qualifications for elective leaders, Jay wrote,
"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers. And it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers." (the emphasis is mine)
John Jay retired from the Supreme Court in 1795 only to be elected Governor of New York in his absence. George Washington, nearing the end of his presidency, had sent him to London in 1794 to negotiate a settlement with the British over their interference in trade and shipping with America. During his absence, Alexander Hamilton -- now a close friend and ardent supporter of his fellow-Federalist -- placed John Jay's name in contention for the governorship of New York without even asking his friend.
Jay returned from London on May 28, 1795, the voting was under way; and on June 5th, the announcement was made that John Jay had become the new governor by a margin of 1,589 votes. It forced his retirement from the Supreme Court -- a choice not to his liking, but one which acceded to the will and desires of his friends. He served as New York's governor until 1801 when he retired -- or attempted to -- from public life.
It was a letter to John Bristed on April 23, 1811, in which John Jay was reminiscing about one of his trips to France on behalf of George Washington that he wrote,
"While in France . . . I do not recollect to have had more than two conversations with atheists about their tenants. The first was this: I was at a large party, of which were several of that description. They spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. I took no part in the conversation. In the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ? I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did."
In 1816, John Jay became one of the founders of the American Bible Society. In an address to the Society on May 9, 1822, he said,
"The same merciful Providence has also been pleased to cause every material event and occurrence respecting our Redeemer, together with the gospel he proclaimed, and the miracles and predictions to which it gave occasion, to be faithfully recorded and preserved for the information and benefit of all mankind."
During those early years as our nation's Constitution was being formed, and the foundation of this country being firmly established, a young man whose life was greatly influenced by John Jay, Joseph Storey, began to follow in Jay's footsteps. I won't take time to delve into Joseph Storey's life today, other than to say that he served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845.
Commenting -- among other things -- on the First Amendment to the Constitution, Storey gave a lecture titled "The Value & Importance of Legal Studies" on August 25, 1829 at Harvard University. In that speech he stated,
“The real object of the (First) Amendment was not to countenance, much less advance, Mahometanism (Mohammedanism [Islam]), or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects (denominations).” (the emphasis is mine)
So much for the argument set forth by the FDR Supreme Court concerning "the wall of separation between church and state." Their argument absolutely ignored written history. John Jay was at least the equal and perhaps more of a contributor to the establishment of the U. S. Constitution than Thomas Jefferson. Yet the Court chose to take Jefferson's letter out of context for its ruling and totally ignore the statements of John Jay and Joseph Storey.
Are you beginning to get a better picture of our founding fathers? Are you beginning to understand why Christians today must treat the attack on our Christian liberties as nothing less than spiritual warfare?
Of all the founding fathers of this nation, few were as outspoken concerning America's establishment as a Christian nation as Patrick Henry.
A firebrand (some have called him a "radical") whose personality stood in stark contrast to the stern honor of George Washington, the "refined logic" of Thomas Jefferson, and the well-tempered but industrious Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry had a unique genius which stood out in his childhood that made him a conundrum to his family. Bored by farming, his family realized by the time he was 10 years old he would never be a farmer and instead sent him to prepare for an academic career. His disinterest in education prompted his father to set him up in a business at age 21 which he promptly bankrupted.
Although he had found his schooling likewise boring and uninteresting, his quick grasp of knowledge and the printed word allowed him to peruse law books over a six-week period without actually attending Law School, take AND PASS Virginia's Bar Exam when he was about 22 years of age.
By age 27, he began to become active in the fight for freedom and independence. His penchant for fiery rhetoric and persuasive argument began to become known, gaining the attention of Virginia's House of Burgesses in 1764 when he argued for broad voting rights and women's suffrage. The previous year, in 1763, when arguing the famed Parson's Cause in Hanover County, Patrick Henry proclaimed that a king who would veto a good and necessary law made by a locally elected representative body was not a father to his people but "a tyrant who forfeits the allegiance of his subjects."
The following year, he was elected to the House of Burgesses, quickly becoming known as its "radical leader." That same year, he proposed and argued for his Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions.
For those who still favored an ongoing bond with Great Britain and King George, his proposition was nothing less than treasonous; and yet, his arguments were so persuasive that five of his resolutions passed the House. In 1765, he defended again those resolutions.
Quoting from an article at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, we are told, "Carried away by the fervor of his own argument, the plainly dressed burgess from Louisa County exclaimed that "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third..." At this point, cries of treason rose from all sides, but with hardly a pause, Henry neatly "baffled the charge vociferated" and won the burgesses for his cause. Five of his resolutions approved, the new leader in Virginia politics saddled his lean horse and took the westward road out of Williamsburg. (After his departure, one of the resolutions was overturned.) Henceforth, Patrick Henry was a leader in every protest against British tyranny and in every movement for colonial rights."
Henry's knowledge of Scripture and constant attention to the Word of God made its phraseology part of his regular speech, and he often quoted liberally from Scripture as he made his arguments.
On March 23, 1775, speaking at St. John's Henrico Parish Church in Richmond, Virginia, he gave what was perhaps his most famous, and most often quoted speech. Recognizing that the American colonies were on the brink of war with Great Britain, and realizing that many of the colonists were still pacifists, he launched into a call for battle.
In part, he said, "They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.
The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
If you would like to listen to actor Richard Shumann's performance and delivery of Patrick Henry's entire speech, go to the following website, scroll down the page, and click on "Play." http://www.history.org/Almanack/people/bios/biohen.cfm
As you listen to the entire speech, you will hear his repeated use of Scriptural phrases and metaphors as he seeks to draw a clear picture in the minds of the listeners.
Writing on the back side of his famous Stamp Act, Henry wrote, "Whether this [new government] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation [Proverbs 14:34]. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this, and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself and encourage it in others."
In a speech delivered before the Continental Congress as arguments were being delivered in favor of Independence, he said, in part,
"I know, sir, how well it becomes a liberal man and a Christian to forget and forgive. As individuals professing a holy religion, it is our bounden duty to forgive injuries done us as individuals. But when the character of Christian you add the character of patriot, you are in a different situation. Our mild and holy system of religion inculcates an admirable maxim of forbearance. If your enemy smite one cheek, turn the other to him. But you must stop there. You cannot apply this to your country. As members of a social community, this maxim does not apply to you. When you consider injuries done to your country your political duty tells you of vengeance. Forgive as a private man, but never forgive public injuries. Observations of this nature are exceedingly unpleasant, but it is my duty to use them."
His speech to the Continental Congress was at odds with his background and upbringing. Having been raised as -- and considering himself -- a Quaker, Patrick Henry's fiery language and phraseology caused him to be referred to by some of his Quaker friends as "a Quaker in religion but the very devil in politics." Nevertheless, he saw himself as one devoted to Jesus Christ, and at the same time, devoted to bringing about a nation and society in which the Gospel could prosper freely.
While serving as the Governor of Virginia (he served three consecutive terms with Thomas Jefferson his immediate successor), he wrote to his daughter. In that letter, he said,
"Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of the number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long, and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast."
Toward the end of his life and political career (he died in 1799), he again wrote his daughter and said, "The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed."
For all his vim, vigor and fire, nothing more eloquently described his zeal for a Christian nation than the phrase from his famous speech at St. John's Henrico Parish Church, "[For it is] God [who] presides over the destinies of nations."
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Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76502
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