Stand Up for Christian Freedom:
Keep B.C. and A.D.
Before Christ (B.C.) and Anno Domini (A.D.) (in the year of the Lord):
Dating a Milestone in World History: the Coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ
Proposals to supplement or perhaps eventually replace the terms B.C. and A.D., with the terms B.C.E. and C.E., should not be implemented.
With regarding to writing time (i.e., dates on a calendar), B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) (what is "common" about the era?) are terms without significance or history. In contrast, B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini: that is, Latin for "in the year of the Lord") do have a historical meaning and significance: not just in American history, but in world history, as well. B.C. and A.D. mark the coming of Jesus Christ as moral governor of the world, thus recognizing that His coming changed world history. Any honest survey of world history will show the impact of Christianity's influence. Even secular societies (especially those built on a Christian heritage, like the United States) need to date years (such as 2006 A.D.) as being "in the year of the Lord", because the coming of Christ's kingdom brought civilization to world history. All the political principles that we take for granted as being "enlightened" or "secular" or "republican", that guarantee us life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness within the bounds of the Divine (moral) law--i.e., civil rights--were the direct result--the exclusive product--of Christian civilization.
One person who recognized that fact, soon after the United States' founding, was Jonathan Edwards (II) (1745-1801), D.D., pastor at New Haven, Connecticut and son of the famed Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). The younger Edwards told why Christianity is necessary for the very well-being of the United States. As Edwards essentially explained, secular humanism (what was then called "philosophical religion" or deism) is very bad for the political life of the nation: "It is manifest therefore, that this philosophical religion, could it be generally introduced and established among us, would be a very great political evil, as it would weaken and even annihilate those motives to virtue and restraints from vice, which are most powerful on the minds of men in general."
In 1794, the younger Edwards authored a work titled The Necessity of the Belief of Christianity by the Citizens of the State, in order to our Political Prosperity; Illustrated in a Sermon, Preached Before His Excellency Samuel Huntington, Esq. L.L.D., Governor, and the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, Convened at Hartford on the Day of the Anniversary Election. May 8th, 1794. (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1974). His words earned the thanks of the Connecticut legislature, which issued the following order (which, when published, was printed before the text of the election sermon itself):
At a General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, holden at Hartford, on the second Thursday of May, A.D. 1794.
ORDERED, that the Hon. JONATHAN INGERSOL, and DAVID DAGGETT, Esqrs. return the thanks of this Assembly, to the Rev. Doct. EDWARDS, for his sermon delivered on the Anniversary Election, and desire a copy thereof, that it may be printed.
A true copy of record,
By GEORGE WYLLS, Sec'ry.
Recall that this election sermon, typical for its time period, was preached after the ratification of the United States Constitution; thus the Connecticut legislature, by not only thanking its author but also requesting its publication, was acting within the parameters of the United States Constitution, including its First Amendment.
The following edited excerpts from Edwards' classic election sermon (pp. 6-14, 16-21, 26, 28, 33-47) explain why the American governments (federal and state) should acknowledge, promote, and encourage the benefits of Christianity as much as they can (in modern times, these reasons also apply to the motivation for including the retention of the historical B.C./A.D. dating system that acknowledges the cultural significance of the Christian era):
Therefore the subject, which I beg leave to propose from our text for present consideration, is this, The necessity of a belief of Christianity by the citizens of this state, in order to our public and political prosperity. This proposition is plainly implied in the text. For if that people only be happy or prosperous, whose God is the Lord; and if to believe and comply with Christianity be implied in having the Lord for our God; it follows, that the belief of Christianity by the citizens of this state, is necessary to our political prosperity.
Political prosperity requires the general practice of a strict morality. But this cannot be so well secured by any other means, as by a belief of Christianity. Motives of a religious kind appear to be necessary to restrain men from vice and immorality. Civil pains and penalties alone are by no means sufficient to this end; nor are civil honours and rewards sufficient encouragements to the practice of virtue in general. The civil magistrate does not pretend to reward virtue in general according to its moral excellency. He does indeed reward some particular acts of virtue, which are highly beneficial to the public. But the many virtues of private life pass without any other reward from him, than the bare protection, which is afforded in common to the persons who practice those virtues, and to all who are free from gross crimes.
Nor does the magistrate pretend to punish vice in general. He does undertake to punish those gross vices, which consist in the violations of the perfect rights of men, and in those cases only, in which the violations are both manifest and are manifestly proved before a proper tribunal. But all violations of even these rights which are perpetrated in private, or which, though perpetrated publicly, are not legally proved, pass entirely free from civil pains and penalties. The same is true of all violations of the imperfect rights, as they are called, which are violated by ingratitude, selfishness, neglect of kind offices, & c. Yet these vices are in their consequences, often as hurtful to the public good, as injustice, fraud or robbery; and indeed the former are the source of the latter. Now to restrain from vices of this latter description, from all vices practised in private, and from vice in general, nothing is so useful as a full belief of a final judgment, and of a subsequent state of rewards and punishments, in which all sin not renounced by sincere repentance, shall be punished, and every man shall receive according to that which he does in the body, whether it be good or evil.
Let us suppose a citizen restrained from vice by the fear of civil penalties only. [*****] Ever complaining under the mildest and justest government, he will in numberless ways oppose measures, and especially expenses, subservient and necessary to the public good; and will excite and spread discontent among others. Now is this a good citizen? What if the whole state consisted of such citizens? Could it enjoy political prosperity?
The best and perhaps the only remedy for such diseases, is a full belief of the divine universal providence, of the accountableness of all men to God for all their conduct, and of a future equal retribution.
Some religion then, and some belief of a future state is necessary to our political prosperity. But what religion shall we adopt? and what system concerning a future state is most useful to the state? [***] [...] [W]e seem necessitated to have recourse to Christianity: and this is most excellently adapted to the ends of restraining men from vice and promoting that general practice of strict morality, which is so essential to the political prosperity of any people. It is adapted to these ends by its precepts; by the moral character of the author of those precepts; by his absolute supremacy and sovereignty; by the motives of reward and punishment with which those precepts are enforced; by the facts which it relates, and by the examples which it exhibits. It is enforced not by the bare authority of our feeble reason, but by the authority of our Creator, our Judge, and our all-perfect God. It depends not on the obscure investigations, subtle refinements and uncertain conclusions of human intellect; but on the omniscience, the veracity, the justice, the goodness and the will of God: And thus it is excellently adapted to the principles and feelings which are common to human nature, and which exist in the weakest and most ignorant, as well as the most intelligent and learned. A man who cannot follow the shortest and most easy chain of reasoning on the nature of things and the tendency of human actions, and who will not from such reasoning feel his obligation to virtue in general or to particular virtues, will at once feel the force of the positive and authoritative declarations and requisitions of the Almighty: and where is the man, learned or unlearned, of weak or strong powers, who does not see and feel the difference between the advice and directions of some learned and acute philosopher, and thus saith the Lord? Above all, the motives arising from the doctrines of the final judgment and a future state, lay an inconceivably greater restraint on the depravity of human nature, than any thing that is or can be suggested by the philosophical religion.
Let us compare this religion with Christianity in a few particulars, which immediately relate to our present subject.
It is a maxim of infidelity to follow nature. Now to follow her, is to follow all the appetites and passions of which we are naturally the subjects; and this will lead to all kinds of vice. But it is a maxim of Christianity, to follow the divine law, the precepts of the gospel and the example of Christ: and whether these lead to vice or virtue, I need not inform you.
Another maxim of infidelity is, that man was made for his own happiness; that is, that every man was made for his own individual happiness. This then is to be the supreme object of every man; and this object is to be pursued, as infidels themselves teach, by gratifying his natural appetites and passions, which brings us just where we were before, to all vice and wickedness: And if an infidel deny his appetites and passions, he must be governed by other motives than any which his system of morality suggests. But Christianity teaches, that we were created for an end, which so far as we pursue, we cannot fail of sincere piety and strict morality.
Infidels are divided into two classes, those who deny a future state of existence, and those who allow such a state. The former deny all moral government of God, and that we are at all accountable to him; and some of the most noted among them deny any evidence of his moral perfections. Now it is manifest, that according to this system mankind can be under no restraint from vice, by the consideration of a future state of rewards and punishments, or by the consideration of their accountableness to God, or of his commands or prohibitions. Nor does this system admit of any motives derived from these sources, to the practice of virtue. Yet these motives, with respect to mankind in the gross, are the most powerful. The authors and abettors of this system seem to rely on a sense of honour, as the great motive to virtue and restraint from vice. And what is this sense of honour? If it be a sense of shame in doing wrong, and a sense of the honourableness of doing right, it is a mere sense or knowledge of right and wrong; and this so far as it is founded on truth, is undoubtedly a proper rule of conduct, and a man who is disposed to virtue, will practice according to this rule. But how are men in general, without the aid of revelation, to attain, in all cases, to the knowledge of right and wrong, of virtue and vice? It is manifest by abundant experience both ancient and modern, that mere human reason is insufficient for this.
If by this sense of honour be meant, as I imagine is generally meant, a sense of our own supposed personal dignity, a pride naturally arising from this sense, and a disposition to resent and revenge every thing which is grating to our pride; this in many cases is so far from a motive to virtue and restraint from vice, that it is itself a vice. Let this sense of honour be ever so well limited and explained, it cannot be a motive to virtue and a restraint from vice to all men; because it does not reach and cannot influence all men. How many are there in every nation and country, who have very little sense of their own dignity, and very little elevation of soul in a consciousness of it? How many are there, who in a prospect of gain, would not scruple to betray their friends, to steal their neighbours property or to betray their country?
It is manifest therefore, that this philosophical religion, could it be generally introduced and established among us, would be a very great political evil, as it would weaken and even annihilate those motives to virtue and restraints from vice, which are most powerful on the minds of men in general.
Besides: this system so far as it denies the evidence of the moral perfections of God, not only cuts off the motives to virtue, drawn from a future state and from those divine perfections; but even suggests motives to vice. If it be a matter of uncertainty, whether God be a friend to virtue or a friend to vice, it may be, that we shall please him most by an unrestrained indulgence of vice, and by the practice of virtue shall provoke his malice and vengeance. Nay, if it be a matter of uncertainty, whether the Deity be a benevolent or malicious being, we can have no certainty, but that he will give us an existence in a future state, on purpose to gratify his malevolence in our everlasting torment. And to be consistent, the advocates for the system now under consideration should not say a word against the Christian doctrine of endless punishment, on the ground of its supposed injustice or opposition to grace and mercy; because they acknowledge, that they know not, that God is just, gracious or merciful.
Thus this scheme, which was invented to avoid the fears of future punishment, defeats itself; and while it attempts to deliver us from a just punishment, leaves us exposed to any punishment ever so unjust, cruel and malicious.
As to that kind of infidelity, which allows the divine moral perfections and a future state of rewards and punishments; though this is more plausible than the former; yet the motives to virtue and restraints from vice, which it affords, are not to be compared with those of the gospel. Agreeably to the gospel all men are to be rewarded according to their works done in the body, whether they be good or evil [and] [...] according to their several aggravations of guilt. But in the future punishment which infidels admit, there is nothing vindictive, nothing therefore which is intended to support law and government. The only punishment which they admit, is that which is designed for the good of the person punished; * (* See Blount and Tyndal [Tindal].) and therefore as soon as the person punished repents, he is released. Now it is manifest on the slightest reflection, that the motive to avoid sin and vice on this plan, is exceedingly diminished from what it is on the plan of the gospel. On the plan of the gospel the motive is endless misery, proportioned in degree to the demerit of the person punished. On the infidel plan it is a merciful chastisement, which is to continue no longer than till the subject shall repent. And as every sinner will naturally flatter himself, that he shall repent as soon as he shall find his punishment to be intolerable; so all the punishment, which on this plan he will expect, is one that shall continue but for a moment, after it shall have become extreme or intolerable. And whether this momentary extreme punishment be an equal restraint on vice, as the endless misery threatened in the gospel, let every man judge. It is plain, that in a comparative view it is as nothing. Therefore as even this, the most plausible scheme of infidelity, cuts the sinews of morality and opens the flood-gates of vice; the prevalence of it in our state would be a very great political evil.
If we take the pains to compare Christianity with ancient paganism, we shall find, that the former has, even in a political view, the like advantage over the latter, which it has over infidelity.
I am well aware, that is has been said, that Christianity has depraved the morals of mankind; that vice is far more predominant among Christians, than ever it was among the ancient heathens; and that therefore we may justly conclude, that Christianity is less subservient to virtue and a moral life, than paganism. This has been urged as an argument against the divine original and the truth of Christianity; and may be urged as an argument against the good policy of encouraging and supporting it in any state. The consideration of this objection then is pertinent and necessary to the discussion of the subject now before us.
In answer to this objection I beg leave to observe in the first place, that if vice were more predominant in Christian nations, than it was among the heathens, it would not certainly follow, that this increase of vice is the effect of Christianity. Christianity prevails in civilized nations only; and in such nations there is much more opportunity for many vices and much more temptation to them, than among those who are not civilized. Nay, in civilized nations only, is there a possibility of the prevalence of many vices. In proportion as civilization is promoted, the wants of men are increased. Their food, their drink, their apparel and the education of their children, must be more expensive, and more expense is in every respect required to their living in fashion among their neighbours. And in proportion to the increase of their wants, the temptation to covetousness, extortion, oppression, deceit and fraud, is increased. Again, in proportion as civilization is promoted, the means of luxury of every kind are increased, and with the means, the temptations to luxury and luxury itself are increased. [***] But the prevalence of these vices in such nations, is not owing to Christianity, but to civilization and its usual attendants. They were at least as prevalent among the ancient Greeks and Romans, as they are among us. Persecution does not usually obtain among heathen, because either they have no religion themselves to instigate them to persecution; or there is no religion different from their own, to be the object of their persecution; or if there be a different religion, it makes no opposition to that which they have chosen, and therefore their religious zeal is not excited against it.
This affords an answer to an objection to Christianity much insisted on by some, that the heathens do not persecute; but that Christians do most virulently persecute even one another; and therefore that Christianity makes men worse instead of better. The answer to this objection is, that the different religious sentiments and forms of worship among the ancient heathens did not in general oppose each other. They rather justified each other, as the heathens maintained an intercommunity of gods and religions. Though every nation had its own gods and religion; yet whenever the individuals went into another nation, they joined in the worship of the gods and in the observance of the rites of the nation in which they then were. Therefore there was no opportunity for persecution. But the nature of Christianity is very different. It condemns and opposes all other religions as false and ruinous. Therefore as it touches the pride of those whom it condemns, it provokes opposition and the persecution of itself, merely because it tells the truth. And the professors of Christianity too, by a misguided zeal, have been often led into the spirit and practice of persecution.
Now this persecution of Christianity by those of other religions, is not the effect of Christianity, but of opposition to it; and the persecuting spirit which has appeared in some Christians, is not the effect of Christianity, but of the abuse and perversion of it; and for neither of these is Christianity itself answerable. The best institution in the world may be opposed and persecuted; and the best institution in the world may be abused and perverted. But Christianity never gave any just occasion for either the persecution or perversion of itself.
Besides, the charge of persecution may justly be retorted. For no sooner did Christianity make its appearance in the world, than it was violently opposed and virulently persecuted, by those very heathens, who in the objection now before us are said not to have been guilty of persecution. And as long as they had the power in their hands, this opposition was continued or repeated, under various Roman Emperors, for ten successive and bloody persecutions, in which thousands and hundreds of thousands were martyred in various ways, the most malicious and cruel.
Nay, the heathens showed a disposition to persecute not only Christians, but one another, whenever there was opportunity. No sooner did Socrates oppose the religion and polytheism of his countrymen, than they began a persecution of him, which ended in his death. And Cambyses, the Persian monarch, in contempt of the Egyptian god Apis, not only stabbed him with his dagger, but ordered the priests of Apis to be severely whipped, and all the inhabitants of Memphis to be slain, who should be found rejoicing on the occasion of the appearance of that god. * ([Footnote:] * Prideaux's connection.) These things demonstrate, that the ancient heathens did possess an high degree of the spirit of persecution, and not only toward the Christians, but toward one another. The like spirit hath been manifested by heathens of modern times. Passing other instances, I shall mention one which took place in our own country. By the exertions of our ancestors, the first European settlers of this country, a considerable number of the aborigines were converted to the Christian faith. The pagan Indians were displeased with this, banished from their society all the converts, and when they could do it with safety, put them to death, and would have massacred them all, had they not been restrained by the fear of our ancestors *. (Footnote: * Neal's Hist. New England.)
The facts concerning Socrates and Cambyses, furnish an answer to that part of the objection under consideration, which urges that Christians persecute not only heathens, but one another; whereas heathens did not persecute one another. It appears by the facts just mentioned, that heathens have persecuted one another. [***] But by reason of the forementioned intercommunity of gods and religions among the ancient heathens, these grounds of persecution did not exist among them in general, though in some cases they did both exist and produce their usual fruits.
[...] [O]pen vice is not so prevalent in Christian nations, as it was among the ancient heathens. Let us compare those ancient heathens, of whom we know the most and who were the most improved and polite, with the Christians of whom we know the most; the ancient Greeks and Romans with the citizens of the United States.
[***] We proceed now to inquire how far the ancient heathens practised the duties of humanity, and how far they violated those duties by outrage, oppression and cruelty. The Stoics condemned all compassion. No wonder then that they imbibed and practised inhumanity. Some philosophers, particularly Democritus, recommended revenge; and Plato owns that forgiveness of injuries was contrary to the general doctrine of the philosophers. These ideas seem perfectly to coincide with those among the moderns, who are the great advocates for a sense of honour. And how far these ideas are consistent with scripture, with reason or with humanity, I leave you to judge.
[...] [O]ur improvement in civilization and humanity, [is] beyond any thing which existed among the most enlightened heathens.
[***] If Christianity be more useful than any other religion, even for political purposes, we may presume that it is still more useful for the other purposes, which are indeed its immediate objects, piety and true virtue, and peace and comfort in them. The great foundations of religion and virtue are, the moral perfections of God, his moral government, the rule of our duty, a future state of retribution, the possibility of pardon and the end of our creation. Let us in these several particulars compare Christianity with the philosophical religion, which is the only rival of Christianity with any among us.
[***] As to the moral perfections of God, Christianity certainly teaches them more clearly than they can be learned from any light afforded by the philosophical religion. The Scriptures assure us, that holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; that he is a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he; that he is the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. Yea, they assure us, that God is love. They clear up the difficulty arising from the evil in the world, by informing us of the end of all things, and that all things shall finally be overruled for good. But the philosophical religion gives no clear evidence at all of the moral perfections of God. This is acknowledged by some of the principal writers on that system. Hume, the most acute of all infidels, says we ought to infer from the works of God, intermixed as they are with good and evil, that God is of a mixed character, partly good and partly evil. Also Lord Bolingbroke, another principal deistical writer, holds, that there is no evidence of the moral perfections of God.
Some deny, that God at all concerns himself with human affairs or actions. But this is not only not reconcilable with the Scriptures, but not with the moral perfections of God. If we be capable of virtue, and yet he neglect us, so as not to set before us proper motives to it, and not to show by proper rewards and punishments his approbation of the virtuous, and disapprobation of the vicious; this cannot be reconciled with his moral perfection.
It is further urged, that we are not in any case punishable, as all things are right, or as the poet expresses it, whatever is, is right. If by this observation be meant, that things are by the all-wise and all-governing providence of God, overruled to answer a good purpose, though in many instances directly contrary to their natural tendency; this is granted. But if it be meant, that all things in their own nature tend to good, this is not true. Malice has no natural tendency to good but a natural tendency to evil. On the other hand, benevolence has a natural tendency to good. Nor will it be pretended, that if malice reigned through the universe, the universe would be as happy, as if benevolence universally reigned. It is the natural tendency of a rational action, which determines its moral quality, and not the consequence produced by Almighty God, contrary to its natural tendency.
But while infidels confound themselves and the principles of reason, in their discourses concerning the moral government of God; the Scriptures assure us of the reality of that government, and of our accountableness to God.
[***] The Scriptures give us a plain and excellent rule of duty, pointing out our duty not only in general, but in all the most important particulars. How extremely deficient in this instance also, is the philosophical religion? It is indeed said, that the rule of our duty is right reason and the law of nature, and that virtue is a conformity to them. But this is saying no more than that virtue is virtue, and that the rule of our duty is the rule of our duty. For right reason in this case means what is reasonable and right in a moral sense; and duty and what is right in a moral sense are the same thing: and it is just as difficult to find out the law of reason and of nature, as to find out our duty.
[***] The Scriptures give us the most positive assurance of a future state. But the philosophical religion can never assure us of this, because it cannot assure us of the moral perfections of God, by which alone he is disposed to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Therefore infidels are greatly divided among themselves on this subject. Some as was before observed believe in a future state, some disbelieve it. Those who believe such a state, believe that God made all men for their own personal happiness, and that therefore he will make them all happy in the future world. But all this depends on the moral perfections of God, of which they, as their principal writers confess, have no evidence. And if there be no evidence of God's moral perfections, there is no evidence, that he designs the happiness of his creatures either here or hereafter: nor is there any evidence but that he designs the final misery of all his creatures. --- Or if infidels had evidence of the moral perfections of God, they would not have evidence, that God made every man for the end of his personal happiness. The perfect goodness of God doubtless implies, that he made all things with a design to promote good on the whole or on the large scale. So that taking the system of intelligent creatures together, there shall be the greatest possible happiness in it. But this does not imply, that every individual creature shall be completely happy. There is no accounting for the calamities and sufferings of this life on any other supposition, than that they will all finally issue in the greatest happiness of the system: and to suppose that they conduce to the good of the system, by making the persons themselves who suffer them here, more happy hereafter, is a mere conjecture unsupported by any argument. Therefore to indulge it and to build upon it, is altogether unreasonable and unphilosophical.
On the whole, there is no evidence but that the good of the general system may be promoted by the exemplary punishment of the wicked in the future world. And if it would be promoted by such a punishment, infinite goodness not only admits of it, but requires and demands it.
[***] The Scriptures assure us of a way of pardon and acceptance with God; but the philosophical religion gives no such assurance. Infidels do indeed expect to be pardoned on their bare repentance. But the expectation of pardon on repentance, implies an acknowledgment, that they deserve punishment even though they repent, and that such punishment would be just: otherwise there could be no pardon in the case. To pardon is to exempt from punishment not an innocent man, but a guilty one: and to pardon a penitent implies that he deserves punishment, and that his punishment would be just. But if the punishment of the penitent would be just, the interest of the kingdom of God, the great community against which he has sinned, requires his punishment. The very idea of a just punishment is of one which, (there being no atonement or substitution,) is due to the community or to the public good of the community, against which the crime punished was committed. But if the public good of God's kingdom, which is the universe, require the punishment of the sinner, it is not consistent with divine goodness to pardon him. What ground then has the infidel to expect pardon, when both justice and goodness require his punishment?
[***] Christianity informs us of the end of our creation. It is generally holden by infidels, as was before observed, that we were made for our own personal happiness. But if this were true, it would prove, that God does concern himself with human actions, and that he aims to prevent those which tend to our destruction. It would also prove, that those rational actions which tend to destroy our happiness, are morally evil, and that all actions are not in the same sense right. The evidence that God created us for our own happiness, must depend on the evidence of God's moral perfections. But as has been observed, the infidel has no evidence of these. Besides, if God really created us all for the end of our own personal happiness, it seems that he has in this world obtained his end, in a very imperfect degree only; and on the plan of infidelity there is no evidence of a future state. Therefore on that plan there is no evidence, that God will ever obtain his end in our creation.
Or if infidels should grant, that we were made for the general good of the system of intelligences, this would be to give up the chief object of infidelity; because the general good may admit of our misery in the future world, as it does of our misery in this.
But Christianity clearly informs us, that God made all things for his glory, implying the greatest happiness and perfection of the creation as a system; or for the glorious exercise and display of his power, wisdom and goodness in raising his kingdom, which is the creation, as a system, to the highest degree of perfection and happiness.
Thus we see in what darkness, as to the most essential principles of religion, we should have been involved, had we not been favoured with the light of divine revelation, and in what darkness they are involved, who embrace the philosophical religion of infidelity. And thus we have further proof how happy that people is, whose God is the Lord, not only as this circumstance lays a foundation for their political good, but especially as it lays a foundation for true virtue and piety, for peace and comfort here and eternal happiness in the favour of God hereafter.
[***] A second inference from this subject is, that since Christianity appears to be necessary to the public good of the state, it ought to be encouraged by magistrates and rulers of every description. They are appointed to be the guardians of the public good; of course it is their duty to protect and promote every thing tending to it, and especially every thing necessary to it. Therefore as Christianity is necessary to the public good, they are bound to encourage, promote and inculcate that, by their example and profession, by speaking and acting in favour of it both in public and private, by supporting Christian ordinances and worship, and by promoting to places of trust and profit those who profess it and live agreeably, and who are otherwise properly qualified. Magistrates are called to do all this on the ground of the soundest policy.
[***] For the same reasons the citizens in general are obligated to encourage and promote Christianity, by being themselves Christians and that not only in profession, but in heart and life, and by giving their suffrages for those who are of the same character. It is indeed to be confessed, that not all professed Christians are good men or real Christians; yet among professed Christians are many men, who possess good abilities and a proper share of information, who are strictly moral and upright, and who expect to give an account of their conduct to God. Such are the men to be promoted in the state; and the citizens by promoting such men, will encourage and promote Christianity, and at the same time promote the good of the state.
[***] Had not our ancestors been firm and exemplary in this [Christian] faith and practice; had they not taken pains to hand them down to us; had they not in all their towns and settlements instituted schools, in which the principles of Christianity, as well as other things were taught; had they not provided for the support of public worship, for the due observance of the Lord's day and for the public teaching of Christianity on that day; had they not provided for the support of a studious and learned ministry, who being themselves men of knowledge, should be able to instruct others; I appeal to your Excellency [Governor Huntington], whether our political affairs would not at present [in 1794] have worn a very different aspect. And if our supreme magistrates had not been, both by profession and apparent practice, Christians, it would doubtless have had a very baleful influence on the Christian and moral character of the people at large, and consequently on our political prosperity. [*****]
Since the belief and practice of Christianity are so necessary to the political good of our state, and since you are appointed to be the guardians of our political good, I thought it not impertinent to suggest to you some important means, by which you may obtain the end for which you are appointed. Opposition to Christianity both in faith and practice was never, at least in our country, so great and so increasing, as at the present day. It lies with you, gentlemen, by a steady belief, profession and practice of Christianity; by your conversation and weight; by the appointments which you shall make to the various offices, civil and military, and by all your public proceedings, to withstand this opposition, and to guard against the danger to the public good, arising from the depravity of manners which opposition to Christianity naturally induces. It is your province, in conjunction with his Excellency the Governour, to appoint all our executive civil authority and to confer the higher military honours. When men of licentious principles and practice are promoted either in the civil or military line, it gives a dignity and an influence to vice and irreligion. And "one sinner destroys much good," especially when exalted to a high station of honour and authority. Now, if you give this advantage to vice, you will thereby injure the state; but more immediately you will injure religion and the kingdom of Christ. And let me beseech you to remember, that you also have a master in heaven, to whom you, as well as the rest of men, must give an account. The only way to gain his approbation is, to keep a conscience void of offence, and in your political transactions not to act from party attachments and private connections, not to practice intrigue to serve your own interests or those of your friends; but to endeavour to serve the public in the best manner according to your capacity and opportunity. In so doing you will appoint to the several executive offices, men of knowledge and discretion; men that fear God and hate covetousness; men who will be just and rule in the fear of God. By the promotion of such men, virtue will be encouraged and vice will be restrained; by their official proceedings, law and justice will be executed, and "judgment will run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream," even that ["]righteousness which exalteth a nation." Then shall our political interests be in a prosperous state; then shall we be that happy people whose God is the Lord.
[***] Without communicating instruction and information concerning the truth, we can expect to do nothing in our work to any good purpose. Knowledge and not ignorance is the mother of real devotion. The rational mind is to be led by the exhibition of the truth only.
[***] [This is to be done,] By every motive to persuade, drawn from reason and revelation, from time and eternity; and among others this motive of the public good of the state and our general happiness, liberty and prosperity as a people, is not to be omitted.
[***] You have not only the motive of eternal happiness to choose the Lord for your God; but the motives of the peace, good order, and happiness of the people as a body politic, and the general prosperity of the state. You all feel a firm attachment to your liberties and to the privileges of a republican government. Of all forms of government a republic most essentially requires virtue and good morals in the great body of the people, in order to its prosperity and even its existence. But the way to virtue and good morals is to choose the Lord for your God. Nor is this all; you not only have to choose and serve the Lord yourselves, but by the same reasons by which you are obligated to choose the Lord for your God, you are obligated to seek out and by your suffrages to promote to legislative authority, such as are of the same character. In a republic all authority is derived from the people: and such as they generally are, we may expect their representatives, legislators and all their civil authority will be. If you have the Lord for your God, you will elect those of the same character with yourselves, to be your legislators; you will encourage and support them and other faithful rulers in the thorough discharge of their duties of civil government, and you will withhold your suffrages from those who acknowledge not the Lord as their God and regard not his law. Nor can you consistently and innocently give your suffrages to men of this last description: for thus you would give a sanction and influence to sin and vice, would be partakers of their wickedness and would do an injury to the state.
But if you and the good people of the state in general shall unite to practise virtue and Christianity, and to promote the wisest and best men among us, we shall doubtless be that happy people described in the text, and as [in] so many instances of our happiness "judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."
The Present Goal
The secular attempt to wipe out use of the historical terms B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini: "in the year of the Lord") is just one more attempt to teach people, and schoolchildren in particular, to slight, neglect, and discriminate against Christianity.
Everyone who enjoys a free society (and Christians in particular) should
Stand Up for Christian Freedom.
For Christian civilization brings freedom.
For further reading:
Timothy Dwight, The True Means of Establishing Public Happiness (1795)
DISCLAIMER: This website is for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. This website cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the materials herein. For the official version of quoted or reproduced decisions/documents, see the original source.
Home - Policy Analysis - Christian Law Library - Christian History Library
Historical Biographies - Belcher Bulletin - Publications - Belcher History Center
About Governor Jonathan Belcher - About the Belcher Foundation - Copyright/Disclaimer - Site Index