OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANTS
February 7, 2020
As we get into today’s sharing, let me ask you this question. Are you beginning to see jut how much the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was incorporated into the foundations of the United States of America? Are you seeing the covenant commitment that our founding fathers had with the Lord, and why they were so driven to establish a nation in which Jesus Christ was Lord?
They had a singular purpose to create a nation that would become a shining light to the rest orf the world — a nation that would represent the Gospel to other nations! Never in history had such a thing been done before, and not since our founding has it been done again.
It was in 1732 that James Edward Oglethorpe, a member of the English Parliament, conceived a vision for a new colony in America. This colony would be a haven for debtors, a place where those in debtors prison could be transported and given an opportunity to start life all over again. By the time King George II (hence, the colony's name in honor of the king) granted Oglethorpe his charter on June 9, 1732, he had given up on the idea of using men and women from a debtors prison and hand-picked 116 men, women and children to join him in his venture. Several ministers representing different groups of Christians were included.
For the first time in the history of these charters and colonial grants, we see an exception in the grants to those within a specific religious group -- namely Roman Catholics. History tells us otherwise that there was a great religious conflict raging between those giving allegiance to the Church of England and those who believed that the pope was the only rightful authority among Christians. King George II was keenly affected by this controversy and chose to incorporate an exception to Catholics in the writing of the Charter of Georgia.
The Charter reads in part, "And for the greater ease and encouragement of our loving subjects and such others as shall come to inhabit in our said colony, we do by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, grant, establish and ordain, that forever hereafter, there shall be a liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God, to all persons inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within our said provinces and that all such persons, except papists, shall have a free exercise of their religion, so they be contented with the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving offence or scandal to the government."
Thus, despite the fact that much effort and activity to evangelize the Cherokee Indians (and other tribes) within the proscribed boundaries of this new colony had been carried out for more than 50 years by Franciscan monks, Catholics were excluded from their right to worship and build their churches. This non-status, however, lasted officially for perhaps only two decades as the religious floodgates opened to more persecuted Christians from all over Europe. Lutherans, Puritans, Quakers and other lesser-known groups of Christians poured into the colony. The so-called "Protestant" Christians became a dominant force in the new and expanding colony, but at the same time, the former barriers to Catholics began to be torn down as Georgia became one of the most tolerant colonies for differences between the various groups of Christians.
If there can be said to be one dominant characteristic that described the establishment and subsequent charters within the Georgia colony, it was that in order to become recognized as a citizen, a landowner, and a participant in the voting and choosing of leaders, each individual was required to confess and demonstrate (through their life and actions otherwise) that "there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one God Almighty, His and our Father" to whom they swore their allegiance and faith.
It was the year 1681. Charles II was King of England. William Penn, son of Sir William Penn, approached King Charles with a proposition for a grant of land and a charter for a new colony in America; the purpose -- ostensibly -- was to "enlarge the dominions of England" but Penn's objective was to provide a place for missionaries who would evangelize the Indians.
Thus, that same year Charles II provided Penn with his first Charter for the Province of Pennsylvania. In part, the charter reads, "CHARLES the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. To all whom these presents shall come, Greets. WHEREAS Our Trusty and well beloved Subject WILLIAM PENN, Esquire, Son and heir of Sir WILLIAM PENN deceased, out of a commendable Desire to enlarge our English Empire, and promote such useful commodities as may be of Benefit to us and Our Dominions, as also to reduce the savage Natives by gentle and just manners to the Love of Civil Society and Christian Religion, hath humbly besought Leave of Us to transport an ample Colony unto a certain Country hereinafter described. in the Parts of America not yet cultivated and planted..." (spelling corrected for current English)
The following year, William Penn drew up a document which he called Penn's Charter of Libertie. This document laid out a basis for governing the province according to Godly principles. In paragraph 13 of the Charter, he issued an order that "[a committee of plantations...shall elect...a Committee of manners Education and Arts that all Wicked and scandalous Living may be prevented and that Youth may be successively trained up in Virtue and useful Knowledge and Arts." (spelling corrected)
Paragraph 22 reads, "THAT-as often as any day of the month mentioned in any Article of this Charter shall fall on the First day of the Week commonly called the Lord's day the Business appointed for that day shall be deferred till the next day unless in Case of Emergency." (spelling corrected)
In case there might have been any question as to Penn's objectives in chartering this colony and establishing a republican form of government in order to ensure that all of its settlers and colonists knew -- unequivocally -- that this colony was being established after God's order, on May 5, 1682, he prepared a constitution in order to form a civil government that would last through generations whether those governing were good or evil. William Penn's Frame of Government of Pennsylvania is a remarkable document.
His preamble or preface reads like this:
When the great and wise God had made the world, of all his creatures, it pleased him to choose man his Deputy to rule it: and to fit him for so great a charge and trust, he did not only qualify him with skill and power, but with integrity to use them justly. This native goodness was equally his honour and his happiness, and whilst he stood here, all went well; there was no need of coercive or compulsive means; the precept of divine love and truth, in his bosom, was the guide and keeper of his innocency. But lust prevailing against duty, made a lamentable breach upon it; and the law, that before had no power over him, took place upon him, and his disobedient posterity, that such as would not live conformable to the holy law within, should fall under the reproof and correction of the just law without, in a Judicial administration.
This the Apostle teaches in divers of his epistles: " The law (says he) was added because of transgression: " In another place, " Knowing that the law was not made for the righteous man; but for the disobedient and ungodly, for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, and for man-stealers, for liars, for perjured persons," &c., but this is not all, he opens and carries the matter of government a little further:
“Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God: whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil: wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." “He is the minister of God to thee for good." “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake."
This settles the divine right of government beyond exception, and that for two ends: first, to terrify evil doers: secondly, to cherish those that do well; which gives government a life beyond corruption, and makes it as durable in the world, as good men shall be. So that government seems to me a part of religion itself, a filing sacred in its institution and end. For, if it does not directly remove the cause, it crushes the effects of evil, and is as such, (though a lower, yet) an emanation of the same Divine Power, that is both author and object of pure religion; the difference lying here, that the one is more free and mental, the other more corporal and compulsive in its operations: but that is only to evil doers; government itself being otherwise as capable of kindness, goodness and charity, as a more private society.
They weakly err, that think there is no other use of government, than correction, which is the coarsest part of it: daily experience tells us, that the care and regulation of many other affairs, more soft, and daily necessary, make up much of the greatest part of government; and which must have followed the peopling of the world, had Adam never fell, and will continue among men, on earth, under the highest attainments they may arrive at, by the coming of the blessed Second Adam, the Lord from heaven. Thus much of government in general, as to its rise and end.
That William Penn understood all government to be derived from God is inescapable. That he understood how government could be corrupted by evil men is also inescapable. He wraps up his preface to the constitution thus:
"But, lastly, when all is said, there is hardly one frame of government in the world so ill designed by its first founders, that, in good hands, would not do well enough; and story tells us, the best, in ill ones, can do nothing that is great or good; witness the Jewish and Roman states. Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But, if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavor to warp and spoil it to their turn.
"I know some say, let us have good laws, and no matter for
the men that execute them: but let them consider, that though good laws do
well, good men do better: for good laws may want good men, and be abolished or
evaded [invaded in Franklin's print] by ill men but good men will never want good laws, nor
suffer ill ones. It is true, good laws have some awe upon ill ministers, but
that is where they have not power to escape or abolish them, and the people are
generally wise and good: but a loose and depraved people (which is the
question) love laws and an administration like themselves. That, therefore,
which makes a good constitution, must keep it, viz:
men of wisdom and virtue, qualities, that because they descend not with worldly
inheritances, must be carefully propagated by a virtuous education of youth;
for which after ages will owe more to the care and prudence of founders, and
the successive magistracy, than to their parents, for their private patrimonies .
"These considerations of the weight of government, and the nice and various opinions about it, made it uneasy to me to think of publishing the ensuing frame and conditional laws, foreseeing both the censures, they will meet with, from melt of differing humors and engagements, and the occasion they may give of discourse beyond my design.
But, next to the power of necessity, (which is a solicitor, that will take no denial) this induced me to a compliance, that we have (with reverence to God, and good conscience to men) to the best of our skill, contrived and composed the frame and laws of this government, to the great end of all government, viz: To support power in reverence with the people, and to secure the people from the almost of power; that they may be free by their just obedience, and the magistrates honourable, for their just administration: for liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery. To carry this evenness is partly owing to the constitution, and partly to the magistracy: where either of these fail, government will be subject to convulsions; but where both are wanting, it must be totally subverted; then where both meet, the government is like to endure. Which I humbly pray and hope God will please to make the lot of this of Pennsylvania. Amen."
A bit wordy, I know, but Penn's arguments in this preface make his purpose and intent absolutely clear.
Fourteen years after this framework for Pennsylvania's government was written, on November 1, 1696, the new governor of the colony, William Markham, prepared an expanded Frame of Government of Pennsylvania.
Paragraph 5 of that document reads in part, "...all persons who shall be hereafter either elected to serve in Council and Assembly, or commissioned or appointed to be Judges, Justices, Masters of the Rolls, Sheriffs, Coroners, and all other offices of State and trust, within this government, who shall conscientiously scruple to take an oath, but when lawfully required, will make and subscribe the declaration and profession of their Christian belief, according to the late act of parliament, made in the first year of king William, and the late queen Mary, entitled, An act for exempting their majesties' Protestant subjects, dissenting from the Church of England, from the penalty of certain laws, shall be adjudged, and are hereby declared to be qualified to act in their said respective offices and places...." (emphasis, mine)
On October 28, 1701, William Penn released the charter provided him by King Charles II to all of the colonists and settlers living in what was then referred to as Pennsylvania and Territories for their self-governance. Certain conditions were proscribed for those settlers in order to take advantage of their new rights and freedoms.
In a document titled, Charter of Privileges Granted by William Penn, esq. to the Inhabitants of Pennsylvania and Territories, October 28, 1701, Penn outlined the basis for all true freedoms.
"BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship:
And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare, That no Person or Persons, inhabiting in this Province or Territories, who shall confess and acknowledge One almighty God, the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World; and profess him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their conscientious Persuasion or Practice, nor be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or super any other Act or Thing, contrary to their religious Persuasion.
AND that all Persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, shall be capable (notwithstanding their other Persuasions and Practices in Point of Conscience and Religion) to serve this Government in any Capacity, both legislatively and executively, he or they solemnly promising, when lawfully required, Allegiance to the King as Sovereign, and Fidelity to the Proprietary and Governor, and taking the Attests as now established by the Law made at New-Castle, in the Year One Thousand and Seven Hundred, entitled, An Act directing the Attests of several Officers and Ministers, as now amended and confirmed this present Assembly."
Thus Pennsylvania was established as a colony and "One People Under God," irrespective of their doctrinal differences. Much of Penn's wording in his various charters and grants was incorporated into the original state constitution on September 28, 1776. William Penn, like John Winthrop in Massachusetts, knew that no government can truly provide a framework for real freedom and liberty to worship unless that government clearly and unambiguously recognized God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign in all matters.
What a heritage those men left to their heirs, assigns and successors. What a heritage they left to the founding fathers of our Constitution when our nation began to come together as a cohesive people 75 years later.
In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We are now making these gatherings available on video using ZOOM. If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513. If you miss the live voice-only call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later. The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76502
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