As far as I am concerned, I’m just a common man. A husband, a dad, an ordinary person living this roller coaster called “life.” But with that description, I have a connection with those whom most Americans would call “extraordinary”…our Founding Fathers.
The uncertain times in which these individuals found themselves living required common men and women to act uncommon. Pursued by destiny, these great Americans realized that it was their common bond that drove them to action. They understood the sacrifices made by their ancestors, and believed in the truth that had been passed down from those generations: that the hand of Providence must be their guide.
The common bond…the ingredient necessary to accomplish those uncommon feats…was simply natural. They stated it in the Declaration of Independence.
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
For Jefferson and Franklin, Adams and Rush, and all the others, this was all common sense…“self-evident.” “Nature’s God” determined long before they were alive that these things were true: man was common (equal) and deserved life; freedom was God’s gift; and everyone was welcome at the table of “happiness.” In fact, God was the Creator of those very truths and it was His design our forefathers sought to secure.
II Thessalonians 3:10 states, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat (NKJV).” This statement of common sense became the foundation for government in colonial America, in particular, Plymouth, Massachusetts in the early 1600s. The Pilgrims were hard working people, but, as more and more settlers began seeking freedom in America, laziness became more common. The winters were extremely hard on the people, and food was scarce. With more mouths to feed and fewer workers for the harvest, times were becoming rather desperate.
As history would record, the governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, was often quoted as saying, “The Bible is a book about government. When we don’t know what to do, we should look in its pages.” It was he who came across Paul’s words to the church of the Thessalonians. It was an amazing revelation and it immediately became law. You don’t work; you don’t eat!
It was natural.
Bradford said, “Those who believe in the Holy Scriptures are bound to obey its teachings. Those who do not are to be bound by its consequences.” Needless to say, Plymouth soon became free of her freeloaders, and the workforce grew. Tracts of land were divided among families, and what they sowed they kept for themselves. If they chose to share, that was their decision, not the law.
It was a novel concept. The idea of owning land and reaping her harvest for oneself was unheard of in England. This notion soon spread all across colonial America. The principles of Scripture became the foundation of government.
John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He knew this to be “self-evident” because he learned it from his fathers. Adams was a direct descendant of those who fled England’s religious persecutions under Charles I, and his maternal ancestry came across on the Mayflower. John married Abigail Smith, whose father was a highly respected minister of the Gospel. The foundational truths of Scripture were an important part of who John Adams became. Those truths made their way into his life because of his ancestors: ancestors who had a lot in common with the likes of those in Plymouth.
Now, the full circle.
If ever you are given the opportunity to visit Washington DC, take a tour of the Capitol. Inside the rotunda are 8 life-size paintings depicting various aspects of our nation’s birth. Remarkably, half of them center on the religious foundation in the lives of our founders. As you walk into the rotunda, look to the right and you will find Robert W. Weir’s painting, “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” which depicts the likes of William Brewster holding the Bible, and Pastor John Robinson leading the families in prayer before they set out for the New World. One of those men in the painting is none other than, Governor William Bradford.
When John Adams made the above statement, notice he didn’t say only the religious. He was not saying that those who chose not to follow Christ were rendered un-American. However, he stated that at least morality was indeed a virtue necessary to be considered. For our Founding Fathers, the virtues of morality and religion went hand in hand. James Madison reasoned that one could not expect any government to “secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people.” He went on to say it was up to the American people to elect virtuous leaders into office in order to maintain that liberty.
There is an extraordinary connection between most Americans and those common men known as our Founding Fathers. That connection is the realization that our freedoms and “unalienable Rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness all come from God. Apart from His involvement in the founding of our country; from the prayerful determination of the pilgrims to the pious dignity of the Framers, our country would never have become great. Throughout her history, America and her leaders acknowledged the hand of Providence in all aspects of government: legislative, executive and judicial.
Finally, Ronald Reagan proposed, “Indeed, it is an indisputable fact that all the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in [the Bible].”
Since Thomas Jefferson said, “virtue is not hereditary,” meaning it isn’t automatic, it must be taught, I wonder if Governor William Bradford’s statement had anything to do with Reagan’s belief?