, , , , , , , , , , ,

christian life and characterBen. Morris’ magnum opus is a well documented book with tons of citations validating the position he is arguing for, which is a Christian America, or at the very least the influence of Christianity in our nation’s political birth.

Morris traces his theory back to the Reformation and even writes, quoting Bancroft, “He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.” (pg. 79) Thus we see that the Reformation was the foundation of the American world. Without a postmillenial worldview the Americas would not exist. Why go and attempt to discover a world when we are on a sinking ship?

I should actually add that very briefly Morris touches the influence and optimistic outlook of someone before Calvin, namely, Christopher Columbus.(pg. 58) What was Columbus’ motivation? To have money for a safe trip so to try and recapture the Middle East, Africa, and Christianize it which had been taken over by the Ottoman Empire. His motives were entirely Christian. Columbus often remarked himself as one called of God to proclaim the gospel. He said, “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John after having spoken of it through the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it [Americas].” –Selected Letters, pg. 153

From there Morris dives into the Colonial era of the Puritans, Pilgrims, Huguenots and Scotch-Irish. His main focus is geared toward the first two “founders” of the Americas (Puritans and Pilgrims and there settlements). This section of the book (from pg. 23-139) is of utmost importance. Here we see the Christianity of the Puritans on display. Here we see the postmillenial hope of the English puritans, their plan for a “city on a hill”, and the blessing that will bring for other nations (Deut. 4: 5-8).

Morris maintains that the Puritans founded the “purest and profoundest” (pg. 61) political principles because they were purposefully getting it from the Scriptures. This might provide the key to understanding the debate of whether or not America (after the ratification of the Constitution) was a “Christian nation. It is evident that the early settlers (1600’s) were of the purest and profoundest in matters of religion applied to politics, but the writers of the Constitution (Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, etc.) were not nearly as strict as the early settlers (Puritans, Pilgrims). This is a fact that the author himself concedes (pg. 296-297, 316, 547, etc.).

So we see a radical shift from those good Reformed Puritans, their biblical duties of the magistrate and the explicit recognition of God and his Law applied to society and the “Founding Fathers'” pragmatic and polytheistic Constitution. Although Morris doesn’t believe that Amendment 1 proves a polytheistic outlook only maintains difference of opinion on the Christian God, I think any religion can grab hold of the article. It’s the writers responsibility to be explicit! Rushdoony argues that this doesn’t mean that there can’t be “state-churches” but that the federal government can’t get involved in state matters. If a state wants to have a church, then the federal government can’t do anything about it.

Be that as it may we see a huge departure from what the first and actual “founding fathers” (Puritans, Huguenots, Pilgrims, Scotch-Irish) believed to what the “Founding Fathers” believed. Compare pages 89, 116-177, 122, 127, 133-134, 271 which lay out the Puritan view with pages 296, 312, 547 which lay out the polytheistic view of the Founding Fathers.

Here are some of my favorite quotes

“In the firm conviction that virtue must finally be supreme, and that a wise and beneficent Providence has designed this continent to be the theater of the yet more glorious conquests of Christianity, it is the mission and the duty of all friends of the evangelical truth to combine in the attempt to hold and appropriate this country, with its resources, monuments, and institutions, for an empire devoted to the spread of God’s kingdom in the earth and the universal reign of Jesus Christ.” –Byron Sunderland (1863), The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the U.S, pg. 29

The persecutions of the Puritans in England for non-conformity, and the religious agitations and conflicts in Germany by Luther, in Geneva by Calvin and in Scotland by Knox, were the preparatory ordeals for qualifying Christian men for the work of establishing the civil institutions on the American continent. “God sifted” in these conflicts, “a whole nation, that he might send choice grain over into this wilderness;” and the blood and persecution of the martyrs became the seed of both church and state.” –Morris, Christian Life and Character, pg. 41

Thought this might be helpful for some. Found this in Ben. Morris’ book “Christian Life and Character…”, pg. 127
After discussing the colonization of North Carolina, and attributing it largely to the work of Presbyterians he quotes the instructions in the First Provincial Congress of North Carolina (September 1, 1775) which was a charge to the civil magistrate
“13th. You are instructed to assent and consent to the establishment of the Christian religion, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, to be the religion of the state, to the utter exclusion forever of all and every other (falsely so called) religion, whether pagan or papal; and that a full and free and peaceable enjoyment thereof be secured to all and every constituent member of the state, as their individual right as freeman, without the imposition of rites and ceremonies [not Erastian], whether claiming civil or ecclesiastical power for their source; and that a confession and profession of religion so established shall be necessary in qualifying any person for the public trust [any office] in the state.”

Morris on colonization in New Jersey and the duty of the civil magistrate in upholding the first table:

“A proclamation made by Governor Basse, in 1697, contains the following Christian record– “It being very necessary for the good and prosperity of this province that our principal care be, in obedience to the laws of God, to endeavor as much as lyeth the extirpation of all sorts of looseness and profanity [blasphemy], and to unite in fear and love of God and one another, that, by religious and virtuous carriage and behavior of everyone in his respective station and calling, the blessing of Almighty God may accompany our honest and lawful endeavors, I do therefore, by and with advice of the Council of this province, strictly prohibit cursing, swearing, immoderate drinking, Sabbath-breaking, and all sorts of lewdness and profane behavior in word and action and do strictly charge and command all justices of peace, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers within the province, that they take due care that all laws made and provided for the suppression of vice and encouraging of religion and virtue, particularly the observance of the Lord’s Day, be duly put into execution.” (pg. 117)

This book took me about 3 weeks to finish, while reading other stuff so it’s not a difficult book to read at all. One of the downsides is that all of the citations that Morris provides are not accounted for by title of the book, page number, etc. However keep in mind that it took Morris 10 years to write this book (finished in 1864) while using all the books that were at his disposal which we don’t have today.

Anyway I highly recommend this book for every reader, especially the secularists who think that America was built by the influences of the Enlightenment. While there is some truth to that, the influence of the Puritans and Reformed theology is what launched the birth of this country, and yes the Constitution did break away from the stricter and more biblical view of civil government but still has a Christian aroma attached to it. Another quick and helpful tool in this book is the deep character analysis of Statesmen of the Revolution (pages. 139-241). Here Morris shows the Christian character of some of these men.

4/5 stars